Rami Olwan

All About CyberLaw, Copyright and Developing Countries

Access to Knowledge at the Internet Governance Forum

Consumers International and the African Copyright and A2K Project (ACA2K) this week held a successful workshop looking at the Global State of Copyright and Access to Knowledge at the 2009 meeting of the multi-stakeholder United Nations Internet Governance Forum in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. The session was moderated by Dr Bassem Awad from ACA2K, who is also Chief Judge at the Egyptian Ministry of Justice. During question time, I asked what was the outlook for countries such as his, which had recently signed an FTA (Free Trade Agreement) limiting its sovereignty over standards of IP protection?  Lea Shaver noted that Jordan had effectively been coerced into this agreement, and that other countries, particularly those with small negotiating teams, need to be very careful to avoid the same fate.

Jeremy Malcolm responded that the laxity of enforcement in Jordan was actually one of the few points in favour of access to knowledge in that country, as in Egypt. However Lea pointed out that the ACTA treaty, once signed, would be likely to raise global levels of IP enforcement, including liability for materials transmitted over the Internet. This worried her, as no computer algorithm can detect fair use, and the result will be a restriction on legitimate knowledge sharing.

Pranesh Prakesh noted that countries in Jordan’s position should realise that foreign direct investment is not always linked to stronger IP – even OECD and WIPO studies go to show this. Finally Tobias Schonwetter stated that once an FTA is signed, it is tough to get out, but foreshadowed that perhaps once the prevailing mindset changes, both countries might allow renegotiation.

You can download the presenters’ slides by clicking on their names above, and an MP3 recording of the workshop is also available.



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