Exploring the value of openness in the digital economy


Consumers International is undertaking a multi-country programme of economic research on flexible copyright exceptions in developing countries that is to begin by the second quarter of 2014. The empirical research to be conducted will produce comparable data on how different types of copyright reform effects various actors (i.e. – consumers and innovative businesses), including both the effects on consumer welfare and on innovation in the technology and creative industries in developing countries.


The imbalance that is evident in current copyright reform processes reflects a larger imbalance in knowledge production and dissemination in the field. There is very little empirical literature documenting the social and economic impacts of different formulations of limitations and exceptions. Likewise, there has been very little development of policy options and justification materials for copyright limitations and exceptions needed to guide decision makers toward options that may be best for their particular context.


There are questions about the social and economic impacts of flexible copyright user rights that cannot be revealed by an examination of existing data sets, but will require new primary survey work to uncover those effects. In previous research CI has utilised a range of methodologies including online surveys, key informant interviews and focus group meetings, any or all of which would be suitable for the kind of case study research that will “fill in the gaps” of the secondary research using large data sets.

CI’s team will survey consumers and businesses that rely on copyright flexibilities in a number of different developing countries, so we can make at least three types of comparisons:

  • countries where copyright law has changed, as well as comparator countries where it has not changed;

  • countries with more “open” (fair use-style) limitations and exceptions as well as countries with closed-list systems of limitations and exceptions;

  • countries where limitations and exceptions to copyright have been expanded after public debates, as well as some where the judiciary has changed the interpretation of the law. This is to test the hypothesis that consumer and businesses knowledge of their user rights is greater after copyright flexibilities are broadened through public debate.  

Types of survey questions

We expect that the different types of respondents to our survey will use copyrighted content in different ways, and will have different levels of knowledge about their rights. Therefore, we will employ different survey questions for different types of users.

It is proposed to separately survey consumers who are end users of copyright content or digital content products, as well as small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups who both may supply such content or products to consumers, and may also utilise copyright works in doing so. The line dividing these two groups of respondents is unclear, with the rise of creator-consumers who adapt, repurpose and share the content that they consume.

Business survey

The businesses surveyed will be those in industries that rely on limitations and exceptions. They have been isolated in previous reports, and are concentrated heavily (though not exclusively) in the technology sector. This part of the survey would be the most directly tied to arguments regarding the link between systems of copyright protection and innovation. Our questions would include whether or not the firms have introduced new products or services that rely on flexibilities in copyright law (in either production or consumption); whether the firm has kept new products or services off the market because of copyright concerns; and how much time (and other resources) the firms spend dealing with copyright litigation.

Consumer survey

We will also survey individual consumers to learn how they access and use copyrighted materials, the degree to which they are aware of their rights, whether or not changes in the system of copyright have affected their behaviour. Our survey questions will be designed to derive measures of consumer welfare at certain points of time within certain types of copyright environments. We will seek information about downloading/streaming habits; posting copyrighted materials to social networks; transformative uses of copyrighted materials; and educational or research uses. We will include questions about awareness of the user’s nation’s laws and any changes to those laws that may have occurred.

How to get involved

Survey design concepts presentation (PDF)87.76 KB
Research plan presentation (PDF)109.27 KB
Research plan and expression of interest form216.69 KB

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