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Indian IP laws are the world's most consumer friendly

Via Frederick Noronha:

Wed, May 6 01:12 PM

Bangalore, May 6 (IANS) India has been ranked as the country with the
world's most consumer friendly intellectual property (IP) laws since
its copyright regulations allow citizens great freedom to access and
utilise information for educational and development purposes.

This emerged in a study of 16 countries, including economically
advanced ones, undertaken by the Malaysia-based Consumers
International, which calls itself the 'world's only global consumer
advocacy body'.

Consumers International said its first IP Watch List focused on
copyright - which has 'the most immediate impact on consumers' access
to knowledge and thereby on their educational, cultural and
developmental opportunities'.

In the listing which saw India come out on top, the other countries
with good ratings were South Korea, China, the US and Indonesia.

At the bottom of the list were Britain, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

India was rated high (with a B average on a scale of A to F) in terms
of its scope and duration of copyright as well as the freedom of
access and use it gave to home users, content creators, the press and
those in public affairs.

However, despite topping the list, India didn't do so well and got a C
scale in terms of the leeway it allows for disabled users to access
copyrighted work. Likewise, it got only a D when it came to freedom to
access and use copyrighted work by libraries.

Consumers International called for a 'balanced copyright regime in
which the importance of copyright flexibilities and of the maintenance
of a vibrant public domain are upheld'.

India's strengths and weaknesses of its copyright laws - from a
consumer's perspective -were closely studied and the detailed analysis
made available online at http://a2knetwork.org/reports2009/india.

The study praises India's Copyright Act as being 'a relatively
balanced instrument that recognises the interests of consumers through
its broad private use exception, and by facilitating the compulsory
licensing of works that would otherwise be unavailable'.

It points out that 'neither has India rushed to accede to the WIPO
(World Intellectual Property Organisation) Copyright Treaty, which
would expose India's consumers to the same problems experienced in
other jurisdictions that have prohibited the use of circumvention
devices to gain access to legally acquired copyright material'.

The study acknowledges that copyright infringement, particularly in
the form of physical media, is widespread in India. It adds though
that this must be taken in the context that India, although
fast-growing, remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

'Although India's cultural productivity over the centuries and to the
present day has been rich and prodigious, its citizens are
economically disadvantaged as consumers of the culture to which they
have contributed,' says the study, which goes counter to the dominant
trend of pushing for tighter copyright rules and enforcement.

It points to certain limitations - not all libraries can copy works
that cannot reasonably be obtained commercially. Only public libraries
can do so and they can make only three copies of such works.

No explicit rule exists to allow libraries to copy works for users for
the purpose of research or study. Only limited permission is given for
the reproduction of unpublished works by libraries. No provisions
allow for libraries to make preservation or archive copies of material
in their collection.

Of the significant findings, Consumers International said: 'The list
of countries that best support the interests of consumers is dominated
by large Asian economies but they are in odd company with the US,
which has regularly criticised those same countries for failing to
adequately protect and enforce intellectual property rights.'

It suggested that this 'reflects the fact' that US policy makers
'apply double standards when comparing their own copyright system to
systems from abroad'.

It said countries with copyright regimes that 'most disregard the
interests of consumers' was also an 'odd grouping'.

This included the country in which the copyright law was first
developed in the 16th century - Britain.

Together with it were 'developing and transitional economies, whose
outdated copyright laws fail to take advantage of all the
flexibilities that international law allows them to benefit local

Frederick Noronha

FN * http://fredericknoronha.wordpress.com http://twitter.com/fn

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