Right to Research in International Copyright

Call For Research Proposals 


The Academic Network on the Right to Research in International Copyright is calling for  research relevant to the development of global norms on copyright policy in its application to research. Text and data mining research, for example, is contributing insights to respond to urgent social problems, from combatting COVID to monitoring hate speech and disinformation on social media. Other technologies make it possible to access the materials of libraries, archives and museums from afar - an especially necessary activity during the COVID pandemic. But these and other research activities may require reproduction and sharing of copyright protected works, including across borders. There is a lack of global norms for such activities, which may contribute to uncertainty and apprehension, inhibiting research projects and collaborations. 

We seek to partner with researchers interested in exploring the means and ends of recognizing a “right to research” in international copyright law. In our initial conception, there are at least three overlapping dimensions to the concept:

  • The first dimension relates to the work of academic and other investigators, whose success depends on their ability to access and analyze information that may be subject to copyright protection, and to make their findings available. 

  • The second dimension points toward the audience that learns from, applies, and further disseminates research findings. It sounds in the human right to “receive and impart information,” as well as the right to “benefit from” creativity and scientific progress.

  • The third dimension focuses on institutions. Researchers and consumers alike rely on institutions that can collect, preserve, and assure the results of research over time.

We seek the following categories of contributions relevant to the project, more detailed questions within each are available at https://tinyurl.com/rtr-questions

  • History and Theory. We seek papers that contextualize and conceptualize whether and how recognition of a “right to research” can frame and justify policies that promote the interests of researchers, their audiences, and the institutions that serve them. Some primary questions here may include: What lessons can we take from history about protections for research purposes in copyright law? What are the underlying theories and justifications for copyright and how do they justify or motivate applications to research uses of works? What are the Constitutional or fundamental rights underpinnings of a right to research? What lessons can be learned for copyright from other fields of law?

  • Empirical Research. We are interested in qualitative and quantitative research explaining whether and how copyright protection, apprehension, and limitation of and exceptions to such protection, impact research practices. We invite a variety of methodologies to identify research activities -- including collaboration across borders -- that are inhibited by inadequate research rights in copyright. We welcome empirical analysis drawing lessons from datasets of copyright provisions, including the User Rights Database and Review of Comparative Law on Research Exceptions.

  • Legal and Policy Analysis. We seek normative, doctrinal, comparative, and critical analysis (including critical race theory and other analysis of impacts on marginalized groups) that illuminates copyright policy options to promote the full realization of the right to research. We are particularly interested in proposals of options for interpretation, implementation or amendment of international treaties and domestic law. Some questions of interest here include: what should an international treaty commitment on the right to research provide, e.g. as an amendment to the Berne Convention, as a provision in the draft Broadcast Treaty, or in a World Trade Organization agreement? How should countries interpret or change place and format based restrictions on rights to research (e.g. limiting uses to “on the premises”), or of terms like “scientific” research?

Accepted Proposals

Accepted proposals will be included within a 3-year project that is linking academic research to the work of a global civil society coalition working on policy reform. Through this project, researchers will receive sustained opportunities for collaboration and presentation, publication, an honorarium and possibility of coverage of some ancillary costs.

Collaboration and presentation. Accepted proposals will receive multiple opportunities to receive feedback and input from a global network of scholars. All accepted proposals will be invited to workshops with the project’s Academic Advisory Committee, including to receive input on the proposal, to review a draft of the research output, and to foster ongoing collaboration. Finished work will receive opportunities to present in academic and policy making forums.

Publication. Works will be included in the American University Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property open access research paper series. The project will encourage and create opportunities for publication, including by partnering with legal, economic and other journals to host special thematic issues. 

Honorarium and ancillary costs. Upon delivery of the final paper, approved by the Committee for publication in PIJIP’s open access working paper series, each paper, regardless of number of authors, will receive a $2,000 honorarium. Awardees will also be eligible to apply to a research dissemination travel fund to present the work, including to attend meetings and conferences hosted by the project. In special cases, researchers or their institutions may apply for larger awards for reimbursement of additional direct costs of research, such as costs of accessing proprietary data sets or engaging in other forms of data gathering. (Accepted proposals will be required to submit personal or institutional U.S. tax and wire transfer information to receive a monetary award from the project. Our agreement with the Arcadia Foundation prohibits the payment of indirect or administrative costs on any award from this fund.)


Proposals are being accepted through our online form.

Each proposal is requested to define: 

  • the problem the research seeks to address, including the gap in the existing literature to be filled; 

  • the hypothesis (or claim) and methodology of the research.

For applications for awards beyond the honorarium, a budget is required reflecting anticipated costs and cost shares from other sources, which will be reviewed and approved by the Committee with all the applications.

Evaluation Criteria 

The Academic Advisory Committee will review applications in late May, 2021. Proposals are due by May 15, 2021.

The criteria to be used to select awards will include:

  • The relation of the proposed research to the project’s goals (50 percent);

  • Feasibility of the proposed research in relation to its budget (where applicable), including completeness of application and assessment of other contributions to the project;

  • Geographic diversity reflecting the major regional groups of the Civil Society Network on the Right to Research (including regional teams in Latin America/GRULAC, Africa, Asia (including India), Europe, and North America);

  • Balance in the subjects of research within the three categories of research focus described above;

  • Potential for collaboration with other researchers and with the civil society partners of the project; 

  • Inclusion of research on and by people from underrepresented or marginalized groups.