Access to Knowledge under the International Copyright Regime, the WIPO Development Agenda and the European Communities’ New External Trade and IP Policy
RESEARCH HANDBOOK ON THE FUTURE OF EU COPYRIGHT, E. Derclaye, ed., pp. 574-612, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2009
39 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2009
Date Written: January 15, 2008
The rise of digital technologies, their ability of creating infinite and identical clones as well as global communication networks allowing unlimited dissemination of digital content are providing new opportunities for access to information. Individuals are able to access, reproduce and distribute data, ideas, concepts and any other electronic material more widely and at almost no cost. In relation to the concept of access to knowledge, this paper examines the current status and newly evolving trends in international IP protection as well as Europe’s external trade and IP agenda. The concept is crucial not only for a societies’ ability to engage in learning and offer education. It relates further to scientific research and forms the basis for technological advancement. Taking agricultural, bio-chemical or medical research and technology as examples, access to knowledge can improve or safe lives. Knowledge in form of information, ideas and concepts also enables and facilitates the development of new, innovative products or services with an added value or distinctive character. It finally serves as important input for the cultural life of a society. In the context of international copyright law, access to knowledge addresses not only the question which subject matter may or may not ‘benefit’ from copyright protection but a range of issues across the board of (international) copyright law. Attempts to secure access to (and the following transfer of) knowledge can equally relate to a wide range of copyright policy choices including a robust public domain, well defined exclusive rights and schemes for statutory or compulsory licensing as well as exceptions and limitations which (if necessary) override contractual extensions of protection and technological protection measures. This paper provides an overview on the current ‘minimum standards’ in international copyright protection and how they impact upon access to and dissemination of knowledge. This status quo is juxtaposed against (1) the recent and potential future trends in copyright norm setting which might flow from an implementation of the proposals for a ‘WIPO Development Agenda’; and (2) conversely the current external trade and IP policy of the European Communities.
Keywords: access to knowledge, international copyright law, WIPO Development Agenda, EU external trade policy
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