Brazil, Egypt and United Kingdom among worst copyright regimes in the world, new consumer study reveals

  • Latest annual global survey finds intellectual property laws continue to penalise consumers

  • Two-thirds of countries failed in at least one area

  • Evidence of industry seeking copyright infringement convictions without trial

Consumers International (CI), the global federation of consumer organisations, today released its third annual intellectual property report, IP Watchlist. The report rates 24 countries from all world regions on how well their intellectual property systems take consideration of the interests of consumers in accessing educational and cultural products such as books and music.

Across eleven different areas such as educational use, library use and freedom to share and transfer, there was no country that scored top marks, and more than two-thirds of countries received the lowest grade in at least one of those areas.

Developing countries already have amongst the least consumer-friendly laws, yet copyright owner lobbyists seek to make these even tougher: for example, pushing for laws in the Philippines to allow citizens to be convicted of copyright infringement without a trial.

The IP Watchlist analysis highlights four specific questions as examples of where intellectual property laws are failing consumers. One of these questions asks, “Is there provision to penalise the obstruction of consumers' exercise of user rights?” Not one country answered “yes”.

Jeremy Malcolm, CI IP Programme Coordinator, explains:

In many countries, consumers who circumvent limitations on their digital devices and products, for example by ripping a DVD onto their digital home entertainment system, are breaking the law and can be fined or worse. But a supplier who places such limitations on a consumer's property so that it can't be used for fair dealing purposes that the law allows, receives no penalty at all. We don't think this is fair.

The report mentions some of the best and worst practices that were encountered around the world in the development of the survey. Amongst the best practices is the development of a low-cost disc format in Brazil, that competes on price with pirated products. Amongst the practices criticised were an Australian government policy that requires educators to pay copyright fees for copying from freely available public websites.

Jeremy Malcolm of CI says:

By bringing the shortcomings of the world's intellectual property regimes to light, we hope to help create the impetus for their reform. It is encouraging that a number of countries have proposals on the table to make copyright law fairer for consumers. But there are also moves to do the opposite – including a push from industry to convict alleged copyright infringers without a trial. That's why consumers need to remain vigilant about their rights to access educational and cultural products.

You can now download a free copy of the IP Watchlist report for 2011, and browse through the individual country reports on which the report is based. You can also review the previous 2010 and 2009 editions, and help to develop the 2012 edition.

CI members can also request full-colour printed copies of the Watchlist.

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