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Wednesday, November 7 • 5:45pm - 6:45pm
28 International Copyright in Historical Context: Who are the real pirates?

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Copyright is usually justified with arguments about defending the natural right of authors to control their creations, or claims that limited monopolies spur innovation for the greater good of society. This presentation contrarily asserts that the primary intent of copyright has always been to protect the profits of powerful industries in advanced countries and ensure control over emerging markets that rely on the importation of intellectual property.

As global trade expanded before the 1886 ratification of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, a patchwork of domestic copyright laws and bilateral treaties failed to stem rampant infringement that hurt publishers' export revenues. Re-printers and readers, however, benefited from lower costs resulting from the absence of financial obligations to foreign rights holders. The United States, in its early years, explicitly limited copyright protection to US citizens. As a result, its publishing industry grew exponentially in the 19th century, largely through cheap reprints of European works. Not until it had itself become a literary power did it finally join the international copyright regime in order to benefit from its protections. In the 20th century, countries such as South Korea, India, and Brazil successfully emulated America's earlier approach to development, but the intensification of restrictions in recent IP treaties such as the TRIPS Agreement and WIPO Internet Treaties now limits this strategy through threats of economic retaliation from dominant powers.

This presentation takes a whirlwind tour through three centuries of international copyright history, challenging dominant narratives about its purpose, beneficiaries and impact on the global public good. In an age where laws have become ever more skewed in favor of owners and against users, alternatives such as Open Access are offered that, in the long term, will facilitate a more equitable distribution of resources in the Knowledge Society.

Speakers
avatar for Paul St-Pierre

Paul St-Pierre

Collections Librarian (Sciences), University of Guelph
Collections librarian for the sciences (agriculture, veterinary medicine, engineering, life & physical sciences). Pragmatic interests include the use of various metrics in making evidence-based collection decisions, as well as improving effectiveness of the interrelated workflows... Read More →


Attendees (32)