Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law


Lauren Loew

First Page



International intellectual property law (hereafter referred to as IP law) has an increasingly important significance for international trade and relations. From the music industry to the drug industry, intellectual property is a lucrative market, and both individuals and corporations have a lot to lose from the infringement of intellectual property rights. For example, music is a $40 billion worldwide industry. According to the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA), the music industry loses approximately $4.2 billion each year to worldwide piracy. Although these facts bring to light the economic losses of industries and individuals from IP infringement, the global community is far from reaching a consensus on how to address these issues...

Since the implementation of the TRIPS agreement, the debate has turned towards what options are economically viable for developing countries. One side of the debate suggests that IP laws should be implemented as they currently stand, with the same laws and levels of protection in both developed and developing countries. Another perspective suggests that developing countries should be able to use piracy to obtain a broader knowledge base and domestic capacity before implementing IP laws currently in place in Western societies. Some scholars also suggest that IP laws should incorporate non-Western ideals, such as benefit-sharing.

In Senegal, Lebanon, and other developing countries, toying with these various perspectives is a dangerous game. The potential costs and consequences of "getting the IP system 'wrong' in a developing country" may be far higher, and the impact much greater, than in the rest of the world. Currently, Senegal is working to develop a music industry to diversify its economic base and strengthen the cultural solidarity of the country, looking to Nashville for inspiration." Lebanon has an entertainment industry poised to explode onto the international scene, fed by a "large pool of creative talent."' In these two examples, the future of each country's economy may rest with those who are shaping the IP laws, and a failed IP regime could take the wind out of the sails of these growing industries.

This note explains the history and current status of this schism in international IP law, focusing specifically on the efforts of the Africa Music Project and several other case studies involving creative industries. Part I of this note briefly discusses the history leading up to the current split in IP law scholarship, including the birth and evolution of intellectual property laws. Part II analyzes the two main arguments and proposes a solution to the current IP law regime that acknowledges the realities of modern globalization while respecting the economic disadvantage of developing countries.