GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Global Copyright Reform: What It Means for the GCC States?
Paper Proposal Text :
Many western countries have found their copyright systems crumbling in the face of digital revolution. From United States to European Union, a wave of global copyright reform has solicited debate between those who oppose the current trend of expanding the duration and breadth of copyright control, and those who welcome it. Scholars and policy makers are battling over large and abstract questions like the optimal duration of copyright, whether extension of subsisting copyrights is constitutional, the degree to which digital technology has either facilitated or inhibited control of copyrighted content, and the effect that such control has on free speech, the public domain, and future creativity.

It is an interesting time for the GCC countries. As the new additions to the WTO systems, GCC countries have found themselves at the receiving end of global copyright regime. The laws and policy frameworks were largely developed by the West and fed to the GCC states through multilateral treaties (such as TRIPS) and bilateral ones (such as FTA with the United States). Yet, these copyright laws and policy frameworks, once so advertently advocated by the West, are now mired in widespread criticism and controversies at the West’s home ground.

While the global copyright reform is stuck in a political deadlock, GCC countries are working towards a unified copyright legislation. Compared to the West where copyright has become a shadowy labyrinth in which big business, interest groups, and social activists engage in complex maneuvers and fights, GCC countries now have the opportunity for a fresh start. It is not just an opportunity for GCC countries to set the stage right; it is a potential opportunity for GCC to ‘leapfrog’ the West in terms of copyright legislation. By offering a unified, sensible and conducive copyright environment for the region’s creative works, the GCC could be transformed into a vibrant hub for the creative industries.

This paper picked up some of the most prominent ‘reformist’ theories emerged through the current global copyright debate, and studied their feasibility and applicability for the GCC countries. These theories include the first-sale for digital content, restoration of fair-use rights, separation between commercially ‘active’ works and works not producing revenues, and protection for different types of authors/copyright-holders. Whether or not GCC countries eventually find these theories desirable, they should be accurately aware that the current Western copyright system is radically unbalanced, where commercially ‘dead’ works are nonetheless locked up and cost of obtaining permission is preventing the usage of these works for potentially valuable purposes. The hefty social costs are not only depleting the benefits of copyrights, but also essentially depleting the benefits of the digital revolution which has made digital distribution cheap and digital copying virtually free. Rather than trying to catch up with a western system that the West is quickly abandoning, GCC should learn from the mistakes made by the West, and shape its unified copyright regime as one that is most appropriate for this digital era.