Philip G. Altbach, ed. (1995). Copyright and Development: Inequality in the Information Age. Bellagio Publishing Network: Chestnut Hill, MA.
As a law student, we often do not hear about the international effects of American law and policy, especially the codification of American Law in international treaties. As many others have pointed out, American copyright law did not respect international copyright law until the 1980s and since then has been a leader in the fight against international infringement. While we hear about America protecting American interests abroad, we less frequently hear about how American law harms interests or stymies development in other countries.
Copyright and Development: Inequality in the Information Age explores these issues and how the publishing industries have systematically stymied the content industries in these areas. While the book has 6 essays in it, I am going to focus on “International Copyright and Africa: An Unequal Exchange” by Henry M. Chakava. His article obviously focuses on the issues of copyright in the developing African world. Africa produces only 1.2% of the world’s books despite housing 12% of the world’s population (in 1993) (17). Chakava focuses on how the European publishing industry has maligned the African one. At the time of publication, Chakava states that 90% of the published books are textbooks, many of which are published by the publishers from Europe and America. (19). Chakava believes the solution to the African publishing crisis is for European and American publishers to allow African licenses to publish materials, which they have been disinclined to do. Chakava states, “. . . International copyright protects the haves, not the have-nots, and is structured to serve the interests of those with something to protect” (21). His entire article focuses on the problems of Western Europe and America being the holders of copyrights and refusing to let go of their absolute control of copyrighted materials – even materials from local African writers, who found publishers abroad.
Ultimately, having any introduction to the problems of copyright law in the developing world brings an important and often ignored legal perspective to the conversation. All six of these essays give a perspective outside of the traditional copyright law classroom or discussion: like territorial rights in publishing; compulsory licensing, etc. All of the essays are under 25 pages. It provides a great perspective and easy perspective on international copyright law, and as there are articles on India, China, and Africa, it should present an interesting read for those interested in different parts of the world. Admittedly, the book is a little dated, as it was published before the internet become more widespread in the world, but ultimately still relevant to conversation. At 108 pages, the book is worth picking up and perusing for those needing an introduction to the issues surrounding international copyright law.