Friday, October 15, 2004

Intellectual property and the development agenda

Asia Times online today reports on the successful efforts by Bolivia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and Venezuela to push a development agemda at the recent general assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. In a supporting declaration signed by "hundreds of scientists, academics, NGOs and individuals" the WIPO is urged not to "impose global conformity" because "a one-size-fits-all approach that embraces the highest levels of intellectual property protection for everyone leads to ludicrous outcomes for countries that are struggling to meet the most basic needs of their citizens." While I support efforts to counter attempts by especially US corporations and the US government to coerce everybody else into accepting their very restrictive view of intellectual property, I'm also worried by the implication that looser forms of intellectual property rights should apply in the developing world because we need a hand up, while the developed world can afford to have the real, high-quality thing. The current intellectual property right regime in the US is bad for Americans and they need to be liberated from it as much as we do. Creative Commons has also recently started going down the "development agenda" road with the launch of their developing nations license which allows for free use but only in developing nations. Responses have been mixed, with some welcoming it while others see it as, amongst other things, paternalistic.


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