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WIPO Announces Plans to Support Public Domain, Open Source

October 4, 2004

WIPO Announces Plans to Support Public Domain, Open Source

Geneva - The United Nation's (UN) World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has adopted a "development agenda" that acknowledges the need for balance in worldwide policy on trademark, copyright, and patents. In the past, WIPO has been roundly resistant to attempts to balance the interests of copyright holders, who make up the majority of WIPO participants, and the public, which had never been represented at the meetings. Previous efforts to get WIPO to hold one-day information sessions on alternatives to copyright -- such as the public-domain human genome database, the GPL software license that underpins GNU/Linux, and the Creative Commons project's millions of "some rights reserved" books, movies, songs, and images -- have been firmly rebuffed, with major WIPO nations applying enormous pressure to see to it that the issue was never brought to the table.

Now, in the wake of the "Geneva Declaration" -- a document calling on WIPO to work in the interest of all of its stakeholders, including the public -- WIPO's General Assembly has adopted a "development agenda," a kind of lens of public-interest considerations through which the treaty-body will view all future activities.

The effort to get WIPO to officially acknowledge its stated mission of promoting creativity and "technology transfer" to the developing world was led by the Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech), with drafting assistance and support from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and several other like-minded organizations. CPTech and EFF are part of a burgeoning movement among non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have started to attend and document the WIPO meetings, exposing the negotiations to the public eye.

CPTech's director, James Love, remarked: "For years, WIPO has pushed to expand the scope and level of intellectual property rights and told developing countries that this would help their development. Today WIPO supported an entirely different approach, which emphasized open source software, public domain goods like the human genome, patent exceptions for access to medicine, the control of anticompetitive practices, and other measures that have been ignored by WIPO for years. It represents a change in culture and a change in direction for WIPO. Many in the WIPO Secretariat opposed this, and few thought it would prevail, but today we are moving forward, on a different footing and in a positive direction, and WIPO will never be the same."

Said Cory Doctorow, EFF's European Affairs Coordinator, "The growing presence of non-governmental pressure organizations like CPTech and EFF at WIPO's meetings has begun to take its toll. The ridiculous IP-at-any-cost position of WIPO has been laid bare and revealed for a sham. Now the organization is taking its first baby-steps towards balance. In the coming months and years, the nonprofit presence at WIPO will broaden and deepen -- we won't let them fool us any longer."

Contact:

Cory Doctorow
European Affairs Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cory@eff.org

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