Book review: Conceptualizing Copyright Exceptions in China and South Africa

In her latest book, ‘Conceptualizing Copyright Exceptions in China and South Africa’, Jia Wang provides a detailed comparative study of copyright exceptions in the context of research and education specifically. The book starts with a discussion of the international framework for copyright exceptions, and then compares it with the laws of national countries, especially China and South Africa, to assess the extent to which, in today’s digital age, national copyright laws uphold their international agreements in this area. For its treatment of the relevant law of China and South Africa alone, the book is a welcome contribution to the field of comparative copyright law, as accessible in-depth material on developing countries tends to be sparse.
 As noted, Wang’s analysis considers the practical and legal impact of digital technologies and the internet on research and education on developing countries (Chapter 4). The discussion on this issue notably looks at the legality of ‘shrink-wrap’ and ‘click-wrap’ contracts (pp 100-108). From the copyright exception perspective, how much legal room does a contract enjoy to override permitted acts, fair use or fair dealing? The answer is far from clear according to Wang, and it is certainly not harmonized across countries, despite the fact that international agreements purport to provide a common minimum standard of copyright exceptions. Wang argues that for copyright practice, greater clarity on this point is still needed – at both the national and international levels. Against that backdrop, she urges policy-makers to provide that contracts that have the effect of narrowing the scope of copyright exceptions should be set aside (p 107-108).
Some of the other practical difficulties covered by the book concern the status and liability of public libraries, copyright assignment in academic publishing and the deceptively simple concept of ‘the right of communication to the public’ in the context of institutions such as universities or libraries. Should it make a difference in the implementation of copyright exceptions that these institutions are in principle not profit-driven but knowledge-driven?  
Chapters 5 to 7 explore these issues in light of Chinese and South African copyright laws. One of the main take-away points for both countries relate to anti-circumvention rules, which Wang identifies as the least coherent and consistent area of copyright and which is most detrimental for research and education institutions in both countries (pp 185-186, 222-226, 249-250), as they protect DRMS, which will often block permitted uses of protected content.   
The cat who infringes DRMs to give
back to the public domain. Outlaw?
Wang, like many other commentators, advocates stepping away from a one-size-fits-all approach to copyright exceptions, stressing that the legal traditions and cultures of China and South Africa are too diverse to be brought under the same rigid regulatory framework (pp. 247-249). The emergence of new commercial models that seek to generate profits not from users’ subscriptions but through advertising is also framed by Wang as an opportunity to implement the very aim of copyright exceptions: enabling the widest possible access to works to the largest number of individuals.
This book will be useful to any copyright lawyer or academic interested in the comparative study of copyright exceptions and how they apply to the public sectors of education and research.
Book reviewed: Jia Wang, Conceptualizing Copyright Exceptions in China and South Africa (2018) Springer. 257 p. ISBN 978-3-319-71831-6. Printed book: Hardcover 139,99 € | £123.00 | $159.00 [1]149,79 € (D) | 153,99 € (A) | CHF 154,00 ; eBook: 118,99 € | £98.00 | $119.00 [2]118,99 € (D) | 118,99 € (A) | CHF 123,00 Available from your library or ; MyCopy [3] Printed eBook € | $ 24.99 For more information, click here.
Book review: Conceptualizing Copyright Exceptions in China and South Africa Book review: Conceptualizing Copyright Exceptions in China and South Africa Reviewed by Mathilde Pavis on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 Rating: 5

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