"I'm in Geneva at a meeting on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in a negotiation on something called the WIPO "Development Agenda." As Thiru Balasubramaniam has written in this blog entry, the U.S. government, as well as other members of a rich country negotiating bloc called "Group B," have opposed the use of the term "access to knowledge," in the context of topics that should be discussed by the UN agency responsible for setting global norms on intellectual property policy. Other Group B countries also have taken this position.
Technically, we are discussing the draft text on "issues related to norm-setting, flexibilities, public policy and the public domain," where the controversial paragraph 3 now has the following brackets:
3. To discuss possible new initiatives and strengthen existing mechanisms within WIPO to facilitate [access to knowledge] and technology for developing countries and LDCs and to foster creativity and innovation within WIPO's mandate.
Canada said it "didn't understand" what "access to knowledge" meant. The UK indicated that there was a sentiment by many countries that while WIPO could discuss measures that would make access to knowledge hard, such as tough new digital copyright laws, it shouldn't discuss proposals, like a treaty to provide minimum access to works by libraries, teachers and the blind, which would expand access.Here "access to knowledge" is referred to by many simply as A2K, a term that is apparently terrorizing the many lobbyists for publishers. I'm hoping the U.S. will come around, and agree that yes, the U.N. can actually "discuss possible new initiatives" to facilitate "access to knowledge." It is rather amazing that this is even controversial."
They truly live in a world of their own.
Update from Jamie Love via the A2K list:
"The negotiations on the development agenda text have progressed, and as of
last evening, it appears as though the term "access to knowledge" is now
without brackets. The relevant paragraph now reads as follows:
"To initiate discussions on how, within WIPO's mandate, to further
facilitate access to knowledge and technology for developing countries
and LDCs to foster creativity and innovation and to strengthen such
existing activities within WIPO."
I think this is a very good outcome, and gives WIPO the mandate that it
needs to move forward in this area.
Some of the Group B countries had difficulty explaining why they were
opposed to WIPO discussing "access to knowledge." Even more important,
the developing country delegations were very strong on this issue. Now
it will be necessary to build the case for specific A2K initiatives at
WIPO, in the environment were WIPO has agreed that the topic is relevant
Many particpants in the "green room" discussions here say the atmosphere
has been quite good this week, from everyone, including the Group B
countries and the WIPO Secretariat."
And the EFF, as usual have been in attendance and blogging the discussions.