Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stevie Wonder on Declaration of Freedom

In what is possibly the coolest thing to have happened at WIPO ever, Stevie Wonder calls on WIPO to fix copyright and enact "a declaration of freedom to secure to every single human being the opportunity to live the freedom knowing that they have accessibility to information throughout the world."

Performing for the WIPO audience, Wonder noted, "The reason that you know this song is because it's accessible to you. You can read the words; maybe sang this song; maybe danced to this song." "I'd like to see a declaration of freedom for those who are blind or visually impaired - not just those who are blind - those who are deaf, those who are paraplegic, quadriplegic or other."

Promising a celebratory concert at WIPO next year if this is achieved, Wonder left off with the words, "It's on you - do what you gotta do."

See IPW.

Stevie Wonder on Copyright from Intellectual Property Watch on Vimeo.

Stevie Wonder At WIPO General Assemblies from Intellectual Property Watch on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

WIPO and the ACTA Threat

My paper, WIPO and the ACTA Threat, has been published in the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at the Washington College of Law. Please send any comments to sara.bannerman@gmail.com.

The new Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been seen as a potentially existential threat to the existing World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) – as a new plurilateral institution that could replace the older multilateral organization. The ACTA threat to WIPO has a number of predecessors. WIPO’s centrality to international intellectual property norm-setting encountered its first major challenge in 1952 when the Universal Copyright Convention was established under UNESCO. It encountered a second major challenge with the establishment of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (the TRIPs Agreement). The ACTA challenge thus potentially represents a third instance where a major competing norm-setting institution has challenged WIPO. In this paper I review past instances where WIPO has been challenged by an outside norm-setting institution and the responses taken to those challenges. Second, I outline the main proposals for an ACTA institution. Third, drawing on the past instances, I outline the various possible forms that an ACTA-WIPO relationship could take, and various strategies that WIPO could use to maintain its role in the international intellectual property system. Finally, I outline a number of public policy concerns that the institutional proposals for ACTA pose.

Monday, September 6, 2010

WIPO transparency threatened

WIPO held its annual Program and Budget Committee meeting last week. The Committee discussed ways that it might better make its meetings and documents available in multiple languages. WIPO operates in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish, and also Portuguese under specific conditions. In examining ways to make translation costs more affordable, one of the proposals is to stop producing verbatim reports of its meetings, producing instead only a summary report:
A third measure to reduce translation workload, already adopted by the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) and WHO, would consist in replacing the current costly practice of preparing verbatim reports with summary records to be generally limited to approximately 30 pages (compared with 100 to 250 pages for verbatim reports). They would be limited to statements of fact (agenda, participants) and a record of decisions and recommendations. The Secretariat estimates that this measure would enable the overall volume of reports to be reduced by some 70 percent or around 1360 pages per year.
Instead, a recording system would replace the verbatim reports:
In the current biennium, a new digital conference room recording system will replace the present analog system. Upon final installation and testing of the new system, changes to the reporting method may be proposed by the Secretariat that will include the digital recording of proceedings to replace the current practice of preparing verbatim reports. This same system could be extended to the Assemblies of the Member States of WIPO for which the elimination of verbatim reporting combined with electronic records of interventions could result in considerable savings that could be further used towards extended language coverage.
Unless the digital recordings are made publicly available, as the verbatim reports of meetings currently are, WIPO is in danger of sacrificing a great deal the transparency from which it derives its legitimacy as against other forums. Without proper records of meetings, scholars, NGOs, and those unable to attend the meetings will be unable to properly follow WIPO activities.

Multilingualism is extremely important for WIPO and all international organizations, and is a challenge for all. WIPO is very good at finding money for all kinds of projects. There is no reason for transparency to be sacrificed in the name of multilingualism; both transparency and multilingualism are core features of international legitimacy.