The Limits of International Copyright Exceptions for Developing Countries

48 Pages Posted: 6 May 2019 Last revised: 5 Nov 2019

Date Written: May 6, 2019


Development indicators in many developing and least-developed countries reflect poorly in precisely the areas that are most closely associated with copyright law’s objectives, such as promoting democratic governance, facilitating a robust marketplace of ideas, fostering domestic markets in cultural goods, and improving access to knowledge. Moreover, evidence suggests that copyright law has not been critical to the business models of the creative sectors in leading emerging markets. These outcomes indicate that the current configuration of limitations and exceptions (L&Es) in international copyright law has not advanced the human welfare goals that animate its leading justifications in developing countries. This Article considers the design of the international copyright system in light of what economists have learned about the conditions necessary for economic development and examines what changes to international copyright L&Es those insights demand. It concludes that a more realistic dialogue about the relationship between copyright and economic development compels new types of L&Es, thus underscoring where developing and least-developed countries should sensibly invest their limited economic and political capital when engaging with the international copyright framework.

Suggested Citation

Okediji, Ruth, The Limits of International Copyright Exceptions for Developing Countries (May 6, 2019). Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, Vol. 21, No. 3, 2019, Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 19-34, Available at SSRN: or

Ruth Okediji (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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