Digital technologies and global electronic networks present unparalleled opportunities for international knowledge sharing and collaboration. But these same technologies and networks can also be used by authors in ways that significantly limit access and sharing for the purposes of education, innovation and development. The debates around the information commons and the restrictive provisions of copyright rights-holders in the online environment are of particular relevance to the developing world and the African continent.
(LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2006-12-15) Visser, Coenraad
In the digital world, technological protection measures (TPMs) are increasingly used by authors to safeguard against copyright infringement. TPMs mainly control access to copyright works and/or the use of such works (for example, by limiting copying of these works). The international framework for protection against the circumvention of TPMs is found in the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) of 1996. This article examines this framework, and how the international obligations have been discharged in the United States and Europe. In this context the extent of the protection, and possible exceptions and limitations, are considered. It is noted that overbroad protection would be particularly prejudicial to research and education in developing countries, and in this way would deny them the benefits of access to information and learning through global information networks. Finally, the position in South Africa is considered with reference to the Electronic Communications and Transactions (ECT) Act of 2002, which adopts a level of protection far stricter than that adopted in any of the developed countries surveyed.