April 26, 2022


Fiji’s copyright laws disadvantage consumers: CI Survey

Consumers International (CI) has opened up new frontiers to define consumer’ access to knowledge that laws may conventionally prohibit. Fiji has been rated Grade “C” by the 2010 CI’s Intellectual Property (IP) Watchlist after an international survey on the state of access to knowledge found that the copyright laws and enforcement practices of this country poses a barrier to consumers’ access to knowledge.

CI’s IP Watchlist is a global snapshot of how national IP and copyright laws serve or subvert consumer interests. For 2010, CI conducted a survey on the state of access to knowledge or A2K, for short, in 34 countries around the world including Fiji.

These were based on 60 criterias-some of which were freedom to access and use of copyright materials by home users, for education online, by content creators, by the press, libraries, by disabled users, in public affairs and freedom to share and transfer copyright material. Grad A represents a good score that shows that consumers’ interests are being observed in particular criteria while B, C and D are progressively not so good and F is a fail.

The two categories that Fiji’s copyright laws failed miserably and received grade F were freedom to access and use by disabled users and freedom to share information and knowledge with their neighbours. This means that Fiji is doing very little to promote consumers’ freedom to share information and knowledge with their neighbours. We could do better if we devoted resources towards maintaining and promoting public domain material (to which no copyright applies) and encourage the tape-up of Creative Commons licences and open source software.

A fail in freedom to access and use by physically challenged people mean that Fiji’s copyright laws and enforcement practices are not favourable towards disabled consumers unlike other countries where for example, blind consumers easily and lawfully access books in formats such as Braille.

One of the categories that Fiji did well and received B was in freedom to access and use by the press. However, this category does not have direct relevance to consumers as while journalists’ access use of copyright material is important, they are more likely than consumers to have means to pay for it.

Consumer movements are not against the copyright laws or that the rights authors should not be respected and protected. However, we would like to see more balance into the equation with more countries adopting “fair use” exception within their copyright legislation. Here any exception is confined to certain special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the word and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder. For example United States allows transferring music to an MP3 player or recording your favourite television show to watch later as “fair use” under its IP laws.

Consumer movements believe good IP laws should not be about strict copyright protection as one small group of special interest demands, but about fair and open access that contributes to innovation broadly and a vibrant and prosperous public domain.

Meanwhile countries whose IP laws and enforcement practices best support consumers’ access to knowledge are India, Lebanon, Pakistan, United States, South Africa and Bangladesh while countries with worst support are Chile, United Kingdom, Japan and Kenya.

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