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Copyright Evidence at WIPO

Posted on    by Bartolomeo Meletti

Copyright Evidence at WIPO

On 13th March 2023, CREATe presented the Copyright Evidence project at the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva. The session was a side event of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR 43) and attracted around 60 delegates from all over the world, including diplomats from international organisations, government officials and representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs). CREATe participated as part of the Global Expert Network on Copyright User Rights.

On the Agenda of SCCR 43 was a long contested draft text for a WIPO Broadcasting Organizations Treaty and a Work Program on Exceptions and Limitations. A public interest perspective on these negotiations has been provided by the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) of the American University, Washington, College of Law:

In this context, CREATe presented “Evidence on Copyright: An Open Knowledge Approach”: Open knowledge offers powerful tools to understand and collaborate on research about copyright’s effects. This session will demonstrate the Copyright Evidence Wiki project ( and show how it can be used by everyone to connect and explore data about copyright drawn from over 800 studies around the world. Live case studies by the project team, led by the University of Glasgow, will explore current topics in copyright policy, including the impact on libraries, archives and museums, user rights and exceptions, digitization, cultural heritage preservation and educational uses.

A video recording of the session was produced by the Black Stripe Foundation and is available below:

The session started with a presentation by Martin Kretschmer, who introduced the initiative and its ambition to catalogue all existing empirical knowledge on copyright law and its effects. When CREATe was established as a research centre in 2012, there was a perceived need to improve the evidence base for copyright policy. Copyright had become too important for the infrastructure of information societies to be left in an evidence free zone. But, as shown by the timeline of the Copyright Evidence Visualisation tool, there was hardly any empirical work relating to copyright law while far reaching interventions such as the 1996 WIPO Internet Treaties were negotiated.

Timeline of publication of the 867 studies catalogued on the Wiki in March 2023

Empirical work on copyright took off after 2000, following the moral panic about Napster and the debate among economists on whether peer-to-peer digital downloading was a substitute or complement to paid music consumption. As the visualisations show, studies over the next 20 years were dominated by the US, by the music industry and by enforcement issues. Paradoxically, ‘video game publishing’ is almost at the bottom of the list of industries addressed in empirical work on copyright, even though it is a much bigger industry than music. It is apparent that the pattern of empirical evidence is dramatically skewed.

Following Martin’s introduction, Kris Erickson spoke to the history and development of the Copyright Evidence Wiki, currently managed by Amy Thomas. He discussed the open knowledge approach adopted by the development team and its advantages, namely the transparency, interoperability and verifiability offered by the open source MediaWiki platform. Kris highlighted some of the methodological choices that were faced by the team at the start of the project, such as the decision about what categories to include to enable comparison of studies. These were chosen to make the Wiki as useful as possible for users wishing to compare studies across variables such as the methods of data collection, the territory under study, and the nature of the dataset used by authors. Kris then demonstrated how the current Wiki could be used to rapidly develop a literature review on a topic related to copyright evidence, in his case the economic effects of DRM.

Search results for “drm” on the Copyright Evidence Wiki

Looking at the 24 studies currently dealing with the subject of DRM in the corpus, Kris provided an overview of the main research themes, findings, and mediums that have been covered by the research.  There is a notable shortage of research about DRM that focuses on Internet streaming / video / interactive game content.

Bartolomeo Meletti gave a live demonstration of the visualisation tool and showed how each of the five tabs can be used to perform different types of searches. He focused on the ‘Industry and Policy Issue’ tab, which allows users to browse and filter the over 850 studies based on the sectors and the policy issues they relate to. For example, while overall the studies are dominated by enforcement and the music industry and tend to adopt quantitative methods for data collection and analysis, the picture changes substantially if one clicks on ‘Exceptions’.

The Copyright Evidence Visualisation tool

Most studies on exceptions focus on the publishing industry and often use qualitative methods. Bart explained how the visualisation tool used in combination with the Wiki enabled him to carry out a literature review of 137 empirical studies on exceptions quickly and effectively. While the Visualisation tool helps users detect patterns, trends and gaps across the catalogued studies, the Wiki systematises the main information on each study – including the abstract, main results, policy implications and a description of the data – on one page. This helped Bart review all the 137 studies and identify five broad research themes across them: i) judicial interpretation of exceptions; ii) evaluating policy options; iii) impact of exceptions; iv) public domain and incentives; and v) technology and compensation. One way or another, all 137 studies try to reduce the complexity and so increase the predictability of the application of exceptions, with a view to helping courts to interpret exceptions consistently; policy and law makers to draft them; and users to understand and rely upon them.

Andrea Wallace concluded the session with a deep dive into one of the industries of the Copyright Evidence Portal: Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums (GLAMs) and other cultural activities. Andrea showed how the visualisation tool and the Wiki can be used to explore the 59 studies relating to GLAMs that are currently catalogued on the Wiki. Five common themes emerge so far across the GLAMs empirical studies: i) the costs of rights clearance; ii) copyright literacy among GLAM professionals, and users; iii) risk aversion among GLAM professionals; iv) exceptions for GLAMs; and v) access to the public domain, digital cultural heritage and open GLAM. Andrea then did a deeper dive into the latter two themes: exceptions and access to the public domain. As explained in her 21 for 21 contribution – Digital heritage and the public domain – there is a wide range of new research emerging on and specifically because of the expiration of copyright. While it may seem that things become simpler for cultural heritage institutions when copyright expires in the creative works they hold, the complexity and fragmentation of the legal landscape make it costly for the institutions to assess whether copyright in their collections has actually expired. Andrea concluded by showing a few examples of digital collections made available and reused under open licences, including a photomontage by Cold War Steve based on the digital collection of Birmingham Museums (released under CC0).

Benny’s Babbies by Cold War Steve

The session was very well received and generated several questions from the policy makers in the audience, including on whether there are empirical studies on the effects of WIPO technical assistance on the development of copyright laws.

The Copyright Evidence Portal has involved significant effort by a team of CREATe researchers, past and present. We are proud of the improvements that have enhanced the usefulness of the resource, and we are delighted that WIPO delegates were eager to engage with the tool.  Our ongoing plans for the resource aim to make it more comprehensive, more accessible and even more useful to a wide range of stakeholders.