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Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Source

Intellectual Property and Human Development: Current Trends and Future Scenarios


This book examines the social impact of intellectual property laws. It addresses issues and trends relating to health, food security, education, new technologies, preservation of bio-cultural heritage and contemporary challenges in promoting the arts. It explores how intellectual property frameworks could be better calibrated to meet socio-economic needs in countries at different stages of development, with local contexts and culture in mind. A resource for policy-makers, stakeholders, non-profits and students, this volume furthermore highlights alternative modes of innovation that are emerging to address such diverse challenges as neglected or resurgent diseases in developing countries and the harnessing of creative possibilities on the Internet. The collected essays emphasize not only fair access by individuals and communities to intellectual property – protected material, whether a cure, a crop variety, clean technology, a textbook or a tune – but also the enhancement of their own capabilities in cultural participation and innovation.

The framework of ‘Knowledge and Education’ is broad, and overlaps with various areas of intellectual property (IP). Copyright is the dominant legal and policy regime governing this domain. As discussed in other chapters of the book, access to knowledge and education is also circumscribed by such concerns as the expanding scope of patents and its impact on basic research and research tools, public access to patent disclosure information, protection of traditional knowledge, general systems of access and distribution of information, and particular access issues for disabled persons. While Chapter 6 has extensively discussed the implications of copyright law and exceptions on access to textbooks in developing countries, this chapter focuses on implications of new technologies – especially information and communication technologies (ICTs) – on access to information products. In discussing some recent legislative trends, it looks at pro-access strategies by developing countries and civil society organizations (CSOs) relating to knowledge and education.

According to utilitarian theory, copyright is an incentive system which encourages the creation and dissemination of ideas and information products as widely as possible, by giving a creator/author an exclusive right, for a limited (but long) period, to control reproduction by third parties of the form in which the idea is expressed. That grant is meant to be balanced by limitations and exceptions, especially the right of reproduction and distribution for educational purposes. In particular it is important to remember that while copyright is ostensibly an incentive system for authors or creators, it has in practice been a system that primarily benefits intermediaries such as publishers and distributors. Changes in the nature of copyright subject matter, from analogue to digital, have presented significant opportunities for greater access as well as greater restrictions. One of the most significant developments in this arena is the impact of technology on the behaviour of creators, producers or distributors and end-users. The response to such developments significantly drives the scenario planning of actors in this field.

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This material has been published in Intellectual Property and Human Development: Current Trends and Future Scenarios edited by Tzen Wong and Graham Dutfield.

This version is free to view and download for personal use only, shared under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. Permission documentation on file.


Cambridge University Press

Place of Publication

New York, NY

Link to published version