Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Declaration on just access to knowledge

The German non-profit Netzwerk Freies Wissen (NFW) is circulating a sign-on declaration, For better development and just access to knowledge in all forms:  Against the domination of exclusionary rights on the knowledge economy.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

It's aimed at the governments of the G8 nations and was released on May 23, the first day of the G8 ministers meeting in Munich.  NFW will collect signatures until some time this fall, when it will present them to the G8.

From the English edition of the declaration (also available in German and Swedish):

Access to knowledge is a necessary condition for human freedom. It is crucial in supporting ourselves, caring for the sick, and playing, creating, and working together in communities. The digital and biotechnological eras have created enormous new opportunities for creating and sharing knowledge and are broadening humankinds potential to solve problems and innovate.

But these opportunities are accompanied by huge risks. Chief among them is the explosion of intellectual property rights that has taken place both within and across national borders. These rights restrict how information and information-based goods can be shared, subsuming the domain of human knowledge to the logic of the market.

We observe stronger enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) by the G8 countries, especially in the developing world. The debate is framed by governments of industrialized countries as protection against piracy and forgery. However, IPRs cover a huge array of exclusive rights, including patents on medicines, technology, and plants; copyrights; plant varieties protection; and data protection. These exclusive rights - held almost exclusively by companies of the Global North - have a huge negative impact on the life and developmental opportunities of billions of people.  Furthermore, after a change in the global balance of economic power strong IPRs may have the same negative effect on the economy of the G8 countries.

We have a different vision. We believe that all human beings have the right to benefit from and contribute to the domain of human knowledge. We believe that sharing is more conducive to knowledge than control, that profit is only one motive for the creation of knowledge, and that no person should be denied what she or he needs because of artificial scarcity in any form, including scarcity created by misuse of intellectual property law....

Furthering innovation is vitally important, be it in the areas of breeding, medicines, science, or general technological development. We need systems for the creation of knowledge that guarantee open access to knowledge in all its forms and on all levels but do not overly impede the possibility for users, innovators, creators, and breeders to access those innovations and build upon them like the current system does....

Today's system of science is characterized by publicly funded research being privatized and monopolized: Publishers of scientific journals appropriate copyrights for the majority of scientific papers and knowledge which is subsidized by research funding bodies and universities is patented.

All publicly financed research should be freely available. The new opportunity to disseminate knowledge over the Internet should be used by following the Open Access paradigm. The best research is that which adds to the knowledge commons....