Copyright laws restrict sharing, learning: study

New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) In a world that is part of the digital revolution era, restrictive copyright laws still act as a serious barrier to sharing and learning from each other, more so in countries of the global South where three quarters of the population live, says a study.

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A 208-page dossier from the Copy South Research Group, which does extensive work on the global copyright system, has over 50 articles examining global issues that affect the "developing world" like access, culture, economics, libraries, education, software and the Internet.

The publication, available for download via, seeks to give "facts and views on the largely negative role of copyright in the global South in a variety of areas including education, libraries, cultural production and the economy".

Its publishers have sought reader feedback on other issues too. "Tell us and the world (who has Internet access and who visits the website) about your own particular circumstances," the website says.

April 26 each year has been labelled World Intellectual Property Day by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), but this network has taken up a contrary slogan – "Encouraging Creativity".

The study, which looks at the "economics of global copyright", warns that privatisation and monopolisation are "discouraging creativity and invention". It also argues that the average artist and conglomerates cannot benefit in the same way from the copyright system.

Giving specific examples from rural South Africa and Colombia, it points out how copyright laws add to restrictions on learning, and how academics encounter greater difficulties to conduct research.

"Using the Internet in the South (can be) a tangled web of copyright toll-gates and 'keep out' messages," says the study.

It also looks at the use of intellectual property laws to prop up proprietary computer software. It suggests that satire is also being used as a form of resistance, and cooperation in the South is being used "as part of a wider intellectual property activism".

The study says: "(In) the late 1950s and 1960s, many countries became independent and their dissatisfaction with the inequities of the global copyright system led to what has been called 'the international crisis of copyright'."

It notes post-independence India's position that "the high production cost of scientific and technical books, standing in the way of their dissemination in developing countries, could be substantially reduced if the advanced countries would freely allow their books to be reprinted and translated by underdeveloped countries."