Economics & Business

Rigid enforcement of copyright laws harm consumers interests: Int’l survey

KARACHI: The rigid enforcement of strict copyright laws can seriously harm the interests of consumers in any country, notes a latest international survey based on 16 countries, including Pakistan. The survey, conducted by Consumers International, a British non-profit organization found: “What is more important than a strict copyright system, is a fair copyright system; one that balances the economic interests of rights holders with the compelling economic, social and cultural interests of consumers.”

Consumers International IP Watch List is the first survey that has examined the intellectual property (IP) laws and enforcement practices of a range of countries, from the perspective of the world’s only global consumer advocacy body.

The survey notes that the countries that best support the interests of consumers are dominated by large Asian economies such as India, South Korea and Indonesia, but they are in odd company with the United States, which has regularly criticised them for failing to adequately protect and enforce intellectual property rights.

The Watch List also shows that consumers in the US enjoy a relatively liberal copyright regime that allows for “fair use” of copyrighted material. But special interests in the US are pushing to eliminate that same openness and flexibility for consumers around the world. By highlighting this hypocrisy through the release of the IP Watch List, CI hopes the Obama administration will take this chance to distinguish itself from policies of the past.

Commenting on the survey, Zulfiqar Khan, a leading Intellectual Property Lawyer said, “Pakistan’s apparent policies which are built around strengthening intellectual property laws through enforcement of IP laws to be a TRIPs compliant nation, heedless of the interests of consumers will result in waste of national resources and making Pakistan more dependent on imported goods rather than value adding local Made in Pakistan manufacture.”

In contrast, he said, that the Pakistan government should utilize flexibilities available in copyright and patent laws, including exceptions and limitations for personal use of copyrighted material, along with provisions that promote the development of the public domain, benefiting not only consumers, but society as a whole.”

Zulfiqar Khan was of the opinion that “Good IP law should not be about strict copyright protection as one small group of special interests demands, but about fair and open access that contributes to innovation broadly, and a vibrant and prosperous public domain.”

He said the Watch List also reveals that, in addition to US pressure for stricter laws, the IP legislation in the majority of the countries surveyed is still designed for 20th Century copyright issues. It does not take account of the new ways in which content is created and consumed in the Internet era, such as blogs, online video sharing, wiki entries, mashups, remixes and more.

The survey covered 16 countries from around the world: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, UK and USA. It plans to add more countries in its next edition. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries CIIP is building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere. NNI

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Mian Ahsan Liaqat


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