Bruce Sterling on Fri, 24 Sep 2004 18:05:27 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Holy macaroni, check that thing out

from: James Love <>
to: Dave Farber <>
date: Wed, 22 Sep 2004 12:56:39 -0400
subj: Debate over WIPO future

Dave, this is pretty important, and I hope you can share this. Jamie

A battle has erupted within the World Intellectual Property Organization
(WIPO) over the most fundamental questions of its mission.  A number
of developing countries, lead by Argentina and Brazil, have tabled a
proposal for a "development agenda," which involves stopping work on new
treaties that hike intellectual property protections, and redirecting
the agency to a range of initiatives more responsive to development and
concerns of WIPO critics.  Officially, this is debated on September 30,
2004.  Below is a copy of a Declaration on the Future of WIPO, which
discusses the problems with WIPO, the proposal for a development agenda,
and other reforms at WIPO.   We are seeking additional signatures for
this Declaration.  To sign, send an email note to

You can read about the debate in WIPO on the development agenda, see the
signatures of persons who have already signed the Declaration, and
review relevant WIPO documents here:

This debate is not a small thing.  Industry groups, governments
representing right-owners, and several persons on the WIPO Secretariat
are now very active in opposing the Argentina/Brazil proposals.  There
is much that people can do, starting with contacting your own government
to find out where they stand the "Development Agenda" for WIPO, and
share information on us and other groups working on this issue.  We also
need help getting more signatures for the Declaration on the Future of
WIPO.  The following is the text of the English version of the
Declaration we are seeking signatures.

   Jamie Love


Geneva Declaration on the Future of the World Intellectual Property

Humanity faces a global crisis in the governance of knowledge,
technology and culture.  The crisis is manifest in many ways.

* 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
* Concentrated ownership and control of knowledge, technology,
biological resources and culture harm development, diversity and
democratic institutions;
* 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.

At the same time, there are astoundingly promising innovations in
information, medical and other essential technologies, as well as in
social movements and business models.  We are witnessing highly
successful campaigns for access to drugs for AIDS, scientific journals,
genomic information and other databases, and hundreds of innovative
collaborative efforts to create public goods, including the Internet,
the World Wide Web, Wikipedia, the Creative Commons, GNU Linux and other
free and open software projects, as well as distance education tools and
medical research tools.  Technologies such as Google now provide tens of
millions with powerful tools to find information.  Alternative
compensation systems have been proposed to expand access and interest in
cultural works, while providing both artists and consumers with
efficient and fair systems for compensation.  There is renewed interest
in compensatory liability rules, innovation prizes, or competitive
intermediators, as models for economic incentives for science and
technology that can facilitate sequential follow-on innovation and avoid
monopolist abuses.  In 2001, the World Trade Organization (WTO) declared
that member countries should "promote access to medicines for all."

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?  Much will depend upon the future direction of
the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a global body
setting standards that regulate the production, distribution and use of

A 1967 Convention sought to encourage creative activity by establishing
WIPO to promote the protection of intellectual property.  The mission
was expanded in 1974, when WIPO became part of the United Nations, under
an agreement that asked WIPO to take "appropriate action to promote
creative intellectual activity," and facilitate the transfer of
technology to developing countries, "in order to accelerate economic,
social and cultural development."

As an intergovernmental organization, however, WIPO embraced a culture
of creating and expanding monopoly privileges, often without regard to
consequences.  The continuous expansion of these privileges and their
enforcement mechanisms has led to grave social and economic costs, and
has hampered and threatened other important systems of creativity and
innovation.  WIPO needs to enable its members to understand the real
economic and social consequences of excessive intellectual property
protections, and the importance of striking a balance between the public
domain and competition on the one hand, and the realm of property rights
on the other.  The mantras that "more is better" or "that less is never
good" are disingenuous and dangerous -- and have greatly compromised the
standing of WIPO, especially among experts in intellectual property
policy.  WIPO must change.

We do not ask that WIPO abandon efforts to promote the appropriate
protection of intellectual property, or abandon all efforts to harmonize
or improve these laws.  But we insist that WIPO to work from the broader
framework described in the 1974 agreement with the UN, and to take a
more balanced and realistic view of the social benefits and costs of
intellectual property rights as a tool, but not the only tool, for
supporting creativity intellectual activity.

WIPO must also express a more balanced view of the relative benefits of
harmonization and diversity, and seek to impose global conformity only
when it truly benefits all of humanity.  A "one size fits all" approach
that embraces the highest levels of intellectual property protection for
everyone leads to unjust and burdensome outcomes for countries that are
struggling to meet the most basic needs of their citizens.

The WIPO General Assembly has now been asked to establish a development
agenda.  The initial proposal, first put forth by the governments of
Argentina and Brazil, would profoundly refashion the WIPO agenda toward
development and new approaches to support innovation and creativity.
This is a long overdue and much needed first step toward a new WIPO
mission and work program.  It is not perfect.  The WIPO Convention
should formally recognize the need to take into account the "development
needs of its Member States, particularly developing countries and
least-developed countries," as has been proposed, but this does not go
far enough.  Some have argued that the WIPO should only "promote the
protection of intellectual property," and not consider, any policies
that roll back intellectual property claims or protect and enhance the
public domain.  This limiting view stifles critical thinking.   Better
expressions of the mission can be found, including the requirement in
the 1974 UN/WIPO agreement that WIPO "promote creative intellectual
activity and facilitate the transfer of technology related to industrial
property."  The functions of WIPO should not only be to promote
"efficient protection" and "harmonization" of intellectual property
laws, but to formally embrace the notions of balance, appropriateness
and the stimulation of both competitive and collaborative models of
creative activity within national, regional and transnational systems of

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.

There must be a moratorium on new treaties and harmonization of
standards that expand and strengthen monopolies and further restrict
access to knowledge.  For generations WIPO has responded primarily to
the narrow concerns of powerful publishers, pharmaceutical
manufacturers, plant breeders and other commercial interests.  Recently,
WIPO has become more open to civil society and public interest groups,
and this openness is welcome.  But WIPO must now address the substantive
concerns of these groups, such as the protection of consumer rights and
human rights.  Long-neglected concerns of the poor, the sick, the
visually impaired and others must be given priority.

The proposed development agenda points in the right direction.  By
stopping efforts to adopt new treaties on substantive patent law,
broadcasters rights and databases, WIPO will create space to address far
more urgent needs.

The proposals for the creation of standing committees and working groups
on technology transfer and development are welcome.  WIPO should also
consider the creation of one or more bodies to systematically address
the control of anticompetitive practices and the protection of consumer

We support the call for a Treaty on Access to Knowledge and Technology.
  The Standing Committee on Patents and the Standing Committee on
Copyright and Related Rights should solicit views from member countries
and the public on elements of such a treaty.

The WIPO technical assistance programs must be fundamentally reformed.
Developing countries must have the tools to implement the WTO Doha
Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, and "use, to the full" the
flexibilities in the TRIPS to "promote access to medicines for all."
WIPO must help developing countries address the limitations and
exceptions in patent and copyright laws that are essential for fairness,
development and innovation.  If the WIPO Secretariat cannot understand
the concerns and represent the interests of the poor, the entire
technical assistance program should be moved to an independent body that
is accountable to developing countries.

Enormous differences in bargaining power lead to unfair outcomes between
creative individuals and communities (both modern and traditional) and
the commercial entities that sell culture and knowledge goods.  WIPO
must honor and support creative individuals and communities by
investigating the nature of relevant unfair business practices, and
promote best practice models and reforms that protect creative
individuals and communities in these situations, consistent with norms
of the relevant communities.

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.

James Love | Consumer Project on Technology |
P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 200036
voice +1.202.387.8030 | fax +

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