Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest

Last week yours truly attended the Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, a meeting of like-minded activists and academics who got together to discuss and frame a positive agenda in the IP debate. The “progressive” side in the IP Wars has often been criticised by its opponents as being mostly negative, criticising the current IP regime but rarely proposing positive solutions. This Congress attempts to redress that notion, there will be a Declaration released to the public in the next few days, I may be biased, but it really is a good step towards a public interest positive agenda. Here is the press release for the meeting:

Congress To Issue a Declaration to Establish Priorities for Promoting the Public Interest in Intellectual Property Law and Policy

Seeking to ensure that public policy initiatives concerning intellectual property serve the public interest, more than 170 scholars, policymakers, and policy advocates from approximately 35 countries traveled to American University Washington College of Law (WCL) for the first Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, August 25-27, 2011.  The attendees at the three-day deliberation aimed to build a positive agenda for intellectual property policy in the next decade – one composed of proposals that maximize both technological and cultural innovation and enable activities that serve the broader, global public interest.

The Congress ended with several commitments to action expressed in the Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, to be released Monday, September 5.  The Declaration calls for advocacy to promote creativity and innovation through measures such as open information policies, limitations and exceptions to intellectual property rights, reforms to the patent system, promotion of a free Internet, and policies that encourage development of innovative models for rewarding creativity.  In particular, the Declaration calls for advocacy to ensure that the needs of developing countries are properly addressed by the international intellectual property system.  Finally, the Declaration also calls for advocacy to ensure that public policy at all levels is made in the open and is based on balanced evidence reflecting the costs and benefits of the presence and absence of intellectual property rights.

Professor Michael Carroll, Professor of Law and Director of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, said:

The critical priorities are to advocate for policies that correct current imbalances in the substance of intellectual property law, and how it is enforced, by broadening the public’s access and use rights to a wide range of information.

Professor Sean Flynn, Associate Director of WCL’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property said:

“The delegates came together out of a conviction that the public interest is not being well served by many current policy proposals that focus solely on maximizing the rights of intellectual property owners. Increasingly, the public has been shut out of the forums in which such laws are made. The resulting products are decidedly tilted toward the interests of intellectual property rights holders, through the means of constantly expanding and more rigorously enforced intellectual property laws. But these systems impose great costs on consumers and fail to respect fundamental human rights – including rights to free expression, due process and fair trials, and access to social and economic entitlements like health and education. We came here to begin the organizational work needed to chart a more positive agenda – one where the regulatory systems governing information and its products is informed by a fuller range of fundamental values and consideration of the public interest.”

The Global Congress opened on Thursday with keynote addresses by American Unviersity Washington College of Law Professor Peter Jaszi, and Professors Bernt Hugenholtz (University of Amsterdam), Pamela Samuelson (Berkeley Law), and Carlos Correa (University of Buenos Aires).  Webcasts will soon be available at http://infojustice.org/global-congress.

After the conference, many participants endorsed a statement of solidarity with AIDS activists who were arrested and beaten in Busan, South Korea on Saturday while demonstrating against intellectual property provisions in the EU-India Free Trade Agreement.  These strong IP provisions threaten the ability of Indian generic firms to produce and export low cost medicines relied upon by millions of people in developing countries with HIV/AIDS.  The statement of solidarity is available here.

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