The framework of ‘Knowledge and Education’ is broad, and overlaps with various areas of intellectual property (IP). Copyright is the dominant legal and policy regime governing this domain. As discussed in other chapters of the book, access to knowledge and education is also circumscribed by such concerns as the expanding scope of patents and its impact on basic research and research tools, public access to patent disclosure information, protection of traditional knowledge, general systems of access and distribution of information, and particular access issues for disabled persons. While Chapter 6 has extensively discussed the implications of copyright law and exceptions on access to textbooks in developing countries, this chapter focuses on implications of new technologies – especially information and communication technologies (ICTs) – on access to information products. In discussing some recent legislative trends, it looks at pro-access strategies by developing countries and civil society organizations (CSOs) relating to knowledge and education.
According to utilitarian theory, copyright is an incentive system which encourages the creation and dissemination of ideas and information products as widely as possible, by giving a creator/author an exclusive right, for a limited (but long) period, to control reproduction by third parties of the form in which the idea is expressed. That grant is meant to be balanced by limitations and exceptions, especially the right of reproduction and distribution for educational purposes. In particular it is important to remember that while copyright is ostensibly an incentive system for authors or creators, it has in practice been a system that primarily benefits intermediaries such as publishers and distributors. Changes in the nature of copyright subject matter, from analogue to digital, have presented significant opportunities for greater access as well as greater restrictions. One of the most significant developments in this arena is the impact of technology on the behaviour of creators, producers or distributors and end-users. The response to such developments significantly drives the scenario planning of actors in this field.