Copyright laws and developing countries

25 Nov 2013

There has been a major international debate in recent years about whether creative industries provide new opportunities for developing countries to benefit economically from their abundant cultural resources. Studies such as UNCTAD’s Creative Economy (78) reports, as well as UNESCO reports, have identified ways in which the creative industries offer new opportunities for culturally sustainable economic development.

I discuss these policies in my book Global Creative Industries. UNCTAD recommends understanding cultural policy in developing countries as a form of industry policy, where ‘cultural policy in its broad interpretation embraces aspects of a number of other areas of economic and social policy’ (UNCTAD 2008:173). They observe that:

A positive outlook for industrial policy in which creativity and innovation are important drivers of growth is well suited to the contemporary economic conditions of globalization and structural change (UNCTAD 2008: 174).

Yet there is a paradox in these policy strategies when we consider copyright and intellectual property laws in light of such proposals. They generally recommend strengthening copyright laws and better securing intellectual property rights (IPRs), in order to allow producers and distributors in the creative industries to develop more secure and sustainable business models. But the international extension of copyright is often seen as a mechanism through which the global copyright industries can exploit consumers in the developing world by charging prices for cultural products. They are also seen as being based on ‘old economy’ business models unsuited to the world of ubiquitous and freely downloadable digital content.

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