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September 22, 2004
WIPO 2.0: A Declaration for the Future of IP
There's a battle going on at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) -- one that could accurately be described as a struggle for the soul of the organization. The central question is whether WIPO will coninue to promote the protection of intellectual property for its own sake -- IP "uber alles" -- or, as a number of developing countries and others are advocating, pursue a range of initiatives that reflect such notions as "balance," "innovation," or "access." What's at stake is much more significant than the harmony or disharmony of IP regulations. As James Boyle points out in his Manifesto on WIPO and the Future of Intellectual Property, WIPO decisions affect everything from the availability and price of AIDS drugs, to the patterns of international development, to the communications architecture of the Internet.
Jamie Love of the Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech) has been working at the front lines of this battle for many years, and today he forwarded a document proposing that WIPO formally adopt a "development agenda" and other reforms to unlock the organization's considerable power to help humanity. The document, called the Geneva Declaration on the Future of the World Intellectual Property Organization, lists a number of problems that a new direction for WIPO could address:
- Without access to essential medicines, millions suffer and die;
- Morally repugnant inequality of access to education, knowledge and
technology undermines development and social cohesion;
- Anticompetitive practices in the knowledge economy impose enormous
costs on consumers and retard innovation;
- Authors, artists and inventors face mounting barriers to follow-on innovation;
- Concentrated ownership and control of knowledge, technology, biological resources, and culture harm development, diversity, and
- Technological measures designed to enforce intellectual property rights in digital environments threaten core exceptions in copyright laws for disabled persons, libraries, educators, authors, and consumers, and undermine privacy and freedom;
- Key mechanisms to compensate and support creative individuals and communities are unfair to both creative persons and consumers;
- Private interests misappropriate social and public goods, and lock up
the public domain.
So what's the antidote? According to the declaration, the key is recognizing the opportunities implicit in the "astoundingly promising innovations in information, medical and other essential technologies, as well as in social movements and business models" and resolving to act upon them:
Humanity stands at a crossroads -- a fork in our moral code and a test of our ability to adapt and grow. Will we evaluate, learn and profit from the best of these new ideas and opportunities, or will we respond to the most unimaginative pleas to suppress all of this in favor of intellectually weak, ideologically rigid, and sometimes brutally unfair and inefficient policies?
The proposal for a development agenda has created the first real opportunity to debate the future of WIPO. It is not only an agenda for developing countries. It is an agenda for everyone, North and South. It must move forward. All nations and people must join and expand the debate on the future of WIPO.
Delegations representing the WIPO member states and the WIPO Secretariat have been asked to choose a future. We want a change of direction, new priorities, and better outcomes for humanity. We cannot wait for another generation. It is time to seize the moment and move forward.
Love and other supporters are seeking additional signatures. If you're interested in signing, send an email to CPTech and the good folks there will guide you through the process.
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