Original Research - Special Collection: Digital Literacy

The impact of digital copyright law and policy on access to knowledge and learning

Tana Pistorius, Odirachukwu S. Mwim
Reading & Writing | Vol 10, No 1 | a196 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v10i1.196 | © 2019 Tana Pistorius, Odirachukwu S. Mwim | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 January 2018 | Published: 26 June 2019

About the author(s)

Tana Pistorius, South African Research Chair in Law, Society and Technology, College of Law, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Odirachukwu S. Mwim, High Court of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: The evolution in digital technologies has had an enormous impact on traditional copyright notions. Works in digital form have uniform characteristics and these works can be copied, distributed and stored with ease.

Objectives: The focus of this article was how to attain a balance between the need to promote access to works and therefore knowledge and learning, on the one hand, and the protection of the interests of copyright holders, on the other.

Method: Technological protection measures (TPMs) are applied to copyright works in digital form to curb infringement. The authors explore the extent to which TPMs impact on access the knowledge and learning.

Results: The findings of this article suggest a need for possible countermeasures in promoting knowledge and literacy through legislative reform that address the needs of creators and users in developing communities.

Conclusion: The authors conclude that TPMs may hinder data literacy, access to works, teaching and learning, particularly in developing communities. For example, recent attempts to revise South African copyright law have not attained a balanced approach.


Digital; copyright; knowledge; development; legislation; technological protection measures; TPMs; copyright law; information; communication technologies; ICTs.


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