Back in April, when I was writing about the experiences I had at the eIFL-IP conference in Istanbul, I referred several times to the “Draft Law on Copyright, Including Model Exceptions and Limitations for Libraries and Consumers.” A copy of the Draft Law was distributed to the IP Conference participants “hot off the presses.” When I mentioned it back in April, I promised to provide a link as soon as it became available on the eIFL website. I am now delighted to be able to direct folks to the full text of the Draft Law, available as a PDF and soon to have an HTML version accompanying for easy browsing.
The goal of the Draft Law is to provide librarians and their legal advisers with practical ideas to help them understand and influence the policy making process when national copyright laws are being revised. It is directed toward developing countries, from which the majority of eIFL’s membership is drawn. But there is much for all of us, in the US and the EU as in the developing world, to learn from this document. Its clear set of definitions and the explanatory notes that accompany each exception and limitation make it ideal for gaining a synoptic view of the state of international copyright law. Most important is the consistent focus on the public interest and the socially beneficial purpose that copyright law is intended to serve.
It has become a regular complaint about international copyright law that great strides have been made in harmonizing the levels of protection for intellectual property around the globe, but little effort has been made to harmonize limitations and exceptions. Indeed industry lobbyists and even the U.S. Trade Representative often pressure developing countries to adopt draconian levels of IP protection while encouraging them to ignore or drastically limit the role of limitations and exceptions. The result is often that copyright law becomes an obstacle to intellectual and creative development in many countries. The World Intellectual Property Organization has seemed to awaken to this problem over the past two years, and has recently included copyright limitations and exceptions as part of its discussion, especially in the context of it’s so-called “development agenda.” The eIFL Draft Law is an important contribution to this vital discussion, especially because it offers model limitations and exceptions that are designed to facilitate access to knowledge and the public interest. It is a document that deserves study in both the developing and the developed world as we consider how IP law can serve its purpose of encouraging learning and creativity rather than stifling them.