Document Type



International Humanitarian Law | International Law | Law and Society


This essay considers what Professor Peter Yu’s article on DVD region coding, “Region Codes and the Territorial Mess,” illustrates about the challenges associated with using human rights law to respond to limitations on access to knowledge. The kind of activity that Professor Yu points to — the decisions of corporate actors pursuing their own interests that have significant unanticipated effects on individual rights — presents a recurring and thorny problem for those concerned about expression and culture today. At what point do these burdens constitute a human rights violation that can and should be regulated by the state? The essay argues that the question is not when states are obligated to act, but how. Under international human rights treaties, states are obligated not only to avoid engaging in censorship but also to promote domestic policies — such as national laws that regulate markets, technology, and intermediaries — that ensure the conditions necessary for the respect of expressive rights.