Pistorius, T. Developing countries and copyright in the information age : the functional equivalent implementation of the WCT. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal 9(2), p. 1-27, 2006
The internet is tagged as the "world's biggest copy machine". With this description, the internet and digital technology provides opportunities and pose threats to public and private interests in intellectual property rights. This paper introduces the functions and implementations of existing copyright laws worldwide as applied to developing countries. The WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) provides for the protection against the circumvension of technological protection measures applied to works protected by copyright. The paper discusses strong points on the legislative responses to the digital media and on the technology measures on the implementation of the WCT. It provided views on the implementation of the WCT, the impact of technological protection measures and the functional equivalent of WCT on developing countries. It has also provisions on trends on copyright law and also made critical reviews of the laws governing the digital world. The paper concluded with the recommendation that the rights of owner's and users should be functionally equivalent irrespective of the media embodiment and that the balance between private and public rights maybe restored if a functional equivalent approach will be adopted.
Three (3) things i learned from reading the article :
1. Current trends in copyright law have upset the balance between the copyright owner's rights and public interest. Issues arise between the copyright owner's rights to impose technologies to prevent unauthorized use of their works and the legitimate rights of users to access such works.
2. Technological protection measures give authors complete control over the market for their works and sometimes become abusive. The pay per use mechanism limits the access to information which is an argument to copyright protection which should encourage the publication of works and should later enhance the society's level of knowledge.
3. Implementation of WCT and anti-circumvention provisions in developed countries disturbed the copyright balanced and has upset the equilibrium between private and public rights. The trend is harmful to developing countries as net importers of information products.
The article encompasses an overview of current copyright laws existing worldwide. Copyright laws that are drafted not just to protect the rights of the copyright owners but also the rights of the public to access knowledge. However, with the emerging technological advances in the information world, these laws become agents of protectionism and commercialism. Developed countries made law provisions that will only benefit the owner's rights with the public being deprived of their rights to knowledge acquisition. It is also viewed as an implication of the great divide. It enhances the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the developed and the developing nations. The developed countries being the exporter of the information and the developing countries as net importers. The WCT is conceptualized to balance these rights but in the long end, it became a tool for abusive authorities. Other applications does not provide exceptions to academic and research use of copyright materials. Rights should be balance and not dependent on the media format. It should work well for the author and the public interests.
As an information professional, I believe that knowledge plays an important role to the development of an individual and the society. Depriving the public of access to the right information is by all means hindering their growth as individuals. Copyright laws is playing a crucial role in the information society. The abusive side of these laws will favor the commercial use of information that is making money out of it. Although not as evident, libraries are experiencing this abusive side. Libraries are being pushed to avail of a costly information on a pay per use idea from subcriptions of online databases. Owner's have full control on the materials and could demand payments after the ending of contracts. It is logical but it is often harsh to academic institutions. Earning and learning should be balance, and the only way to attain the equilibrium is to make the copyright laws objective enough to balance the private and public rights.