Experts on Development Won't Be Heard at Crucial Meetings

Geneva - Last week, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) announced that it will shut out most public interest organizations at two important meetings devoted to intellectual property and development. As a result, WIPO delegates from 182 nations will discuss these issues without hearing from many of the world's best-qualified experts.

Scheduled for next month, two WIPO "Development Agenda" meetings will focus on the impact of copyright, patent, and other intellectual property rights regimes on the developing world. Without the public interest organizations, the discussions will be heavily weighted toward major motion picture studios, broadcasters, pharmaceutical giants, and other powerful interests that want to expand copyright and patent law.

"This is an embarrassment for WIPO," explained EFF European Affairs Coordinator Cory Doctorow. "Settling the debate by locking one side out of the building isn't the way the UN is supposed to work. We love the Development Agenda -- it's supposed to be a new direction for WIPO. A one-sided discussion isn't a new direction, though. It's just more of the same."

These meetings are a response to the proposal put forward by Brazil and Argentina in the wake of the Geneva Declaration on the future of WIPO, which was signed by hundreds of individuals and public interest non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Most public interest groups have only recently begun participating in WIPO and are not yet permanently accredited by the organization, since the accreditation process takes a year and they have always been able to participate as "ad hoc" observers in the past. On March 2, however, the International Bureau Secretariat advised EFF that only those NGOs that are currently accredited as "permanent" observers at WIPO will be allowed to attend these meetings. As a result, the bulk of civil society will be barred from attending.

"The Secretariat's exclusion of ad hoc observer NGOs raises fundamental questions about WIPO's commitment to a full and thorough discussion of the important issues in the Development Agenda proposal," said EFF International Affairs Director Gwen Hinze.

EFF is accredited as a WIPO permanent observer and will be attending the meetings. The group will be reporting on the proceedings and will attempt to represent the viewpoints of some of the other public interest groups that are being excluded from the process.


Cory Doctorow
European Affairs Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Gwen Hinze
International Affairs Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation