Copyright and Development

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.

UNC Annual Book Drive

The UNC University Libraries and its partners (the Health Sciences Library, the Law Library, the School of Information and Library Science, the School of Education, the School of Social Work, the FedEx Global Education Center, and the Bull’s Head Bookshop) are completing its 6th Annual Book Drive for Pediatric Cancer Patients. They are looking for new or gently used books for ages one to mid-teen, especially English and Spanish language board books and sturdy picture books. More information is available here.


When we think about buying a book, we encounter a common misconception of ownership over a physical item. Many people believe that owning of a physical item (like a book) gives them the right to reproduce the book. Copyright law, though, separates physical ownership of an item (like a book) from the ownership of the intellectual property rights in the book.  This is why we buy books for book drives rather than make copies. If the library (or anyone else) made copies of books donated from previous years, then whoever made that copy would commit copyright infringement and could be liable for upwards of $150,000 in fines. Honestly, that hypothetical $150,000 would buy a lot of books. So when you purchase the book, it gives you some rights, like the right to resell the book or the right to write your own notes in the book, but it does not give you the right to reproduce the book by making a copy of a loose page or copying the entire book to give to someone else to read.


So, we in the Scholarly Communications Office are encouraging everyone to go into the attic and see if there are any books to donate. The book drive runs through December 4th. If you can’t part with your childhood books, then you can always go to the Bull’s Head Bookshop, who will offer a 25% discount on books for the book drive. At the time of purchase, just mention “Book Fairy.” You can find locations to drop off the books at their website. If you have any questions about what you can do with books that you own or want us to help you find awesome books to donate, contact us in the Scholarly Communications Office!


Terms of Service; Didn’t Read

As you use different websites, you might not be asking yourself any questions like: “Who owns this content?” or “Can I actually delete my profile?” or “Will they report this data to the government without my consent or knowledge or a subpoena?” Thankfully, a team of volunteers at “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read” is looking into this for you.

Many of us go through websites and just click through the terms of service agreements with only passably reading the words. For some websites where we do not have to create a log-in (like Songza or Grammarly) we may never read the terms of service at all. “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read” (TOSDR) is an all-volunteer crowdsourced database that evaluates the terms of service of various websites. Currently, TOSDR has evaluated about 70 of the major websites with new ones being added all the time.

Not only can you look up at a specific website in their ever-growing database, you can also download a browser extension for the following browsers: Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera. The TOSDR Microsoft Explorer extension is still being developed. The extension works like this: After installation, you go to a website. If a website is in the TOSDR database an icon will appear in the upper right part of the screen inside of the browser, which will give the rating of the Terms of Service.


The rating will be a letter grade from “Class A” (very good) to a “Class E” (very bad) or a question mark, if TOSDR has not assigned a website a letter grade. From there, you can click on the grade, and TOSDR will also tell you what is good or bad about the website’s terms of service. Currently, these extensions do not work on mobile devices, although Opera is currently developing their operating system so the computer-based extensions will work on mobile devices.

As more and more libraries develop digital content and may start requiring logins, the website gives 24 topics for websites to consider when creating their own Terms of Service for online platforms. While there is no boiler-plate language, it does give preferred contractual positions for a user-focused Terms of Service agreement.

If you have strong opinions about the terms of service of a website, you can always submit content or review of a website’s terms of service, with the instructions available here: or join their working group:!forum/tosdr