A software engineer says weak copyright will destroy fair use:
- A debate has gathered over the importance of copyright protection in developing nations. That debate was recently stoked by the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights (CIPR), a UK organization which concentrates on the integration of intellectual property rights into development policy.
In a recent study, the group advocated a more lax approach to international copyright rules than advocated by TRIPS or WIPO. The argument centers around the notion that strict adherence denies copyright-poor third world nations access to rich world technology information. Without proper access to books, technology, and software, the "knowledge gap" will widen, sentencing the third world to generations of poverty and perpetuating a rich/poor divide that leads to conflict. As the CIPR noted:
there are also developing countries who have provided copyright protection as members of the Berne Convention for decades (such as Benin or Chad which joined in 1971) and have not seen significant increases in their national copyright-based industries or in the level of copyright-protected works being created by their people.
However, I think such arguments get a bit ahead of events on the grounds. Copyrighted material (that is, of the technological sort) is the product of a knowledge economy, and a knowledge economy is built on things like universal literacy, proper science education, the technological tools and infrastructure people need to express their innate creativity, and a level of affluence capable of providing for these things. So long as most in poor nations lack clean drinking water, solid homes, electricity, and decent medical care, they won't have the foundation upon which to build a knowledge economy. The CIPR and others worry about a potential economy that is years beyond the present day capacity of most third world nations.
What third world nations need most is economic development. Pursuant to this, the first order of business should be to deal with structural issues that hinder development. The greatest hindrance is the lack of an integrated property system to which everyone has access. Legally defensible property rights are essential to the process of capital creation, in that property can be used as collateral on loans to grow a small business. Furthermore, incorporation must be within easy reach of normal citizens. Legal companies can take advantage of official distribution channels and grow their businesses internationally, something illegal companies cannot do.