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September 18, 2021

Comment: Does Open Access To Copyrighted Material Disincentivize Knowledge Creation?

Author: Intern - Netra Vasudevan

A sound intellectual property system is one of the key drivers in a knowledge-based economy, as it offers some form of monopoly control to creators in order to incentivize them to create original pieces of work. As per copyright law, when an individual expresses his work in a tangible form and obtains a copyright, he has the sole authority to determine its access parameters. However, the Covid-19 crisis has resulted in a sudden shift from classroom education to virtual learning, which has caused quite a few problems in the intellectual property realm. One of them is the newfound friction between IP barriers in accessing copyrighted content and the need for a more flexible system to facilitate online education.  

The concept of ‘open access’ in the digital space, which work by supplementing existing IPR frameworks and allowing access to content that would otherwise be restricted, has evolved along those lines, and has gained significant traction during these times. But even though many leading publishers have revised their licenses and allowed users to circumvent their paywall-based restrictions to access educational material for free, the author believes that such a system is premature and impractical in its approach, for many reasons.

Firstly, such a measure can only be temporary. Developing and implementing open access policies is a very time and resource-intensive affair. Since people are working from home during the pandemic and organizations are trying to cut costs, it is not a permanent solution to accessing educational resources. Another problem with implementing such policies is that it becomes difficult to follow the circulation of such open materials online, making them very easy to reproduce and copy. This not only affects a copyright holder’s right to litigate, which demotivates and disincentivizes them but also does not guarantee subsequent knowledge creation.

Furthermore, improving public access and innovation requires access to digital technology, which exacerbates the wealth divide. Instead, wider availability of infrastructure for knowledge creation along with open access would serve the purpose better. The issue of legal jurisdiction is yet another barrier when it comes to a copyright holder’s right to litigate, as the licenses in different jurisdictions would depend on the IPR laws there. Altogether, this would disincentivize knowledge creation.  

In spite of being a novel concept, the open access model presents a number of glaring problems that cannot be overlooked. The author thinks that other avenues have to be explored and that changes must be made to create a fair and equitable literary system that allows everyone to access information easily.

Disclaimer: Views, opinions, interpretations are solely those of the author, not of the firm (ALG India Law Offices LLP) nor reflective thereof. Author submissions are not checked for plagiarism or any other aspect before being posted.

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