Rami Olwan

All About CyberLaw, Copyright and Developing Countries

Global Consumer Dialogue on A2K issues, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 17 February 2009

I attended recently a Global consumer Dialogue on Access to Knowledge (A2K) issues (17 February 2009) regional meeting sponsored by Consumers International (CI) Asia Pacific and Middle East office (please see the agenda of the program below).

I provide below a summary of that meeting. Indrani Thuraisingham, Head of CI Kuala Lumpur (CI KL) office gave the introductory talk about the A2K project. She mentioned the following:

This is the first meeting to be held on A2K and several regional meetings are expected in the near future (including one in Africa and the other in Latin America). CI is an independent global initiative founded in 1960, and is made currently of 250 members that strive to build an international voice for consumers worldwide. It concentrates on consumers issues particularly IP and believe that IP is a consumer issue in the first place.

The project is funded by Ford for 2 years, and aims to bolster consumer voices in IP negotiating, develop a strategic plan on IP for consumers and build a strategic plan for consumer movement on A2K, IP and communication rights. For that purpose, CI established a website at http://a2knetwork.org/ funded by Open Society Institute (OSI) that ranks countries on how harmful their IP regimes for consumers. This is a counterpart to the U.S Trade Representative Special 301 Report. It is expected that members in CI will help in researching the status of their copyright laws.

Jeremy Macolm, A2K project coordinator gave a presentation on “Intellectual Property as a Consumer Issue”  He explained why he believes that IP is a consumer issue. He gave specific examples like uploading a video guest signing “happy birthday”, and making a copy of your software or copying a CD and converting it to an MP3 is considered as a violation of copyright.  After that he began discussing the international copyright regime including Berne convention, TRIPS, WIPO Copyright Treaty, FTAs (TRIPs- Plus) and the Anti- Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. He mentioned how the U.S is pushing their bad laws while not pushing their good copyright provisions (e.g fair use).

He outlined the importance of copyright exceptions and limitations for consumers and criticised not harmonizing them. He mentioned that there have been endeavours to establish minimum flexibilities in copyright law especially the proposals that were made by World Blind Union, ELFL for library exceptions, and the suggestions by the Development Agenda countries mainly Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua and Uruguay for broader exceptions and limitations. Unfortunately, some of these proposals were heavily contested by businesses and some countries even within WIPO and beyond.

Term extension is also a major problem, and we have witnessed in the last years the extension of copyright laws in many countries including the U.S (Sony Bono Act of 1993), the E.U Copyright Harmonization Directive of 2001 and FTAs pushing for 70 years of protection period instead of 50 years as in Berne. He then mentioned ISP liability and spoke about copyright infringement.  A2K is “marinating fair public access to the fruits of society’s cultural and scientific output”.

A2K counter balances the biases in copyright and increases developing countries opportunities. He believes that A2K is not a new concept and it started as early as 2001 as follows:

2001 the Deceleration on TRIPS and public health was agreed

2003 Proposed WIPO meeting on open and collaborative project

2004 Brazil and Argentian call for WIPO development Agenda

2005 Civil Society group develop a draft treaty on A2k

2006 First Yale A2K conference held 2007 WIPO Development Agenda was established

2008 Consumers International A2K project Commenced.

The second part of his presentation was about applications of those principles in the context of educational materials, software and music (entrainment).

At the end he summarised his presentation as follows:

– IP is an issue for consumers

– A2K is about reforming the unbalances in IP regime and putting forward positive alternatives to IPR.

– CI with the help of country members aims to build a strong voice for consumers on IPR and A2K.

After Jeremy’s presentation, various presentations were done by CI country members on the status of IP and communication rights. Several members from Lebanon, Philippine, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Fiji, Singapore and others gave a talk. The presentations that were given were really helpful and each country representative was supposed to answer specific questions on the status of IP and communication rights in his respective country. I was interested to learn from the good practices of those countries especially in relation the use of open source software (Philippine, Indonesia and Vietnam governments have done good work on this).

I was interested in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea in aspiring to be leaders in the field of internet penetration (especially broadband) and use of ICT. I gave a presentation about Jordan IP and communication rights (please see below

My presentation is available here.

The second part of the meeting was about the Watch list that was prepared by CI to counterpart the USTR 301 report. Jeremy mentioned that it is not a “black letter” law rather it flags the problems with the copyright laws of those countries that has been surveyed. It is expected that 25 countries will submit their watch list by 2010. There is currently about 4 countries in the list available here http://a2knetwork.org/watchlist.

At the end, there was a brainstorming session for the purpose of planning for the 2-3 years agenda on A2K and the involvement of CI in that regard.

Jeremy Malcom started the session with the following things to consider:

1) Case Studying

-doing research on limitations and exceptions

-the adoption of a broad U.S style “free use” exception

-targeting contend hosts enforcing TRIPS- Plus

2) Meetings

-Host A2K workshop at 2009 -Participate at WIPIO

-Participate at World economic forum

-Online activities in Wikipedia

3) Communication Rights

-promote the use of technical measures to overcome political filtering

-participate in ICANN (new gTLDs and WHOIS accuracy)

The meeting ended after country members of CI sat in a group and provided their opinion on how they think CI international should work in the upcoming 2-3 years. Every group provided its suggestions and they were discussed along with all the participants.

The full agenda of the program is available below.

09:00:00: Registration

09:30:00: Welcome and introductions

10:00:00: Presentation on “Intellectual Property as a Consumer Issue” by Jeremy Malcolm

10:45:00: Break

11:00:00: Presentation of country reports on IP and communications rights

Reports presented by:

CASE Singapore CERC

Consumer Council of Fiji

Consumers Association of India

Consumers Korea

Consumers Lebanon Foundation for Consumers

Thailand NCOS

Japan Hong Kong Consumer Council

IBON Foundation


Creative Commons Jordan


YLKI Indonesia

13:00:00: Lunch

14:00:00: Introduction to consumer survey

14:30:00: Workshop on consumer survey

15:30:00: Break

16:00:00: Introduction to Consumers International IP Watch List

17:00:00: Brainstorming/mind mapping session for content of strategic plan on IP for next 2-3 years

18:00:00: Close

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