Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, February 25, 2007

WIPO warms to the public domain

The Byzantine process of WIPO reform has great potential for OA.  Unfortunately, it's slow, complicated, largely hidden, and usually uphill.  Fortunately, some good news emerges every time to time.  Now for example.  Here's an excerpt from Jamie Love, WIPO Embraces Reform on Intellectual Property Mission, The Huffington Post, February 23, 2007.  Love is the director of Knowledge Ecology International.

Today the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) concluded the first of a two-part review of proposals for a reform effort called the "development agenda." In doing so, WIPO and its member states have done something very positive, and surprising -- both because it signals important reforms, and because it happened with very strong support from all of the WIPO members, including the United States and members of Europe, delegations that usually take a hard line in global negotiations on intellectual property issues.

The negotiations have just broken up. This is our/my statement on the outcome:

Knowledge Ecology International Statement on WIPO Development Agenda negotiation

The agreement on dozens of WIPO reforms was broader and more substantive than had been anticipated. Some of the measures signal important changes in this controversial UN body. WIPO members agreed to "consider the preservation of the public domain within WIPO's normative processes and deepen the analysis of the implication and benefits of a rich and accessible public domain." WIPO agreed to "promote measures that will help countries deal with IP related anticompetitive practices." "Norm-setting activities shall . . . take into account different levels of development" and "take into consideration a balance between costs and benefits." WIPO adopted an expanded mandate to undertake studies to assess the economic, social and cultural impact of intellectual property practices and norm setting activities. All of this signals a new tone and approach for WIPO. In a sense, WIPO is finally entering the new century, and responding to the growing demand for reforms, and a more balanced approach to intellectual property protection.

In some areas, however, the agreement was quite limited. The cluster that included "access to knowledge," was quite thin, for example....

The June [2007] meeting, which is expected to be much more difficult, will look at topics such as proposed treaty on access to knowledge -- a startling departure from WIPO's longstanding efforts to focus largely on expanding the scope and enforcement of intellectual property rights....

Here are some quotes from others who are here: ...

Teresa Hackett (EIFL.NET)
"The Chairman was breath of fresh air. After two years, it feels like things are moving forward. The public domain received unexpected attention, but it gave us the opportunity to talk about why WIPO should care about a rich and accessible public domain."

Miriam M. Nisbet (American Library Association)
"Despite some confusing and conflicting statements about the public domain, it has been gratifying to hear lively debates by the WIPO delegates that reinforce the importance of the topic." ...

David Tannenbaum (Yale Information Society Project)
"It is disorienting to see such a breathtakingly good outcome come out of a process that was largely closed. The language is very general and it will be important to use these principles to guide current and future treaty negotiations." ...

Eddan Katz (Yale Information Society Project)
"This is an important moment for the recognition of the role of human development in innovation. agreement on these principles will help us move forward in promoting access to knowledge as a commitment for the whole world."

(Senior member of the US delegation)
"We sensed a different atmosphere on both sides this time".

Vera Franz
"With this week's meeting we are a step closer to making WIPO fit for the 21st century. Back in 2003 WIPO had argued that a meeting on open collaborative knowledge projects would fall outside the agency's mandate. With today WIPO has put these issues firmly on its agenda, acknowledging that in a healthy and competitive knowledge economy more IP is not always better. What is next? These changes will have to impact future norm-setting at the agency." ...