Wednesday, September 13, 2006

WIPO Struggles with openness

by James Packard Love
So far this week SCCR Chair Jukka Liedes has strongly opposed giving NGOs the opportunity to speak.

CPTech asked Jule Sigal from the US Library of Congress and Ann Chaitovitz to approach the chair to support the right of the public to speak.* The Library of Congress is opposed to having the public speak at this meeting. WIPO is not providing enough seats in the room, and unlike other meetings, there are no overflow rooms so some NGOs have not been allowed to follow the debate. One NGO was told to stop taking pictures of the proceedings.

Normally, NGOs can speak, and often their contributions address important substantive and strategic issues overlooked or not adequately explored during the interventions by governments, partly because governments are often constrained by diplomatic and political considerations. There is certainly plenty of time. The meetings have started late, and often adjourned early, and many countries are saying very little during the debates.

One interpretation of decision to stop the public from speaking is to control the perception that there is a consensus in favor of a new intellectual property right for broadcasting and cablecasting entities, in a model that will likely be extended to the Internet in different ways.

Given the poor track record of government negotiators in protecting the public interest in several recent negotiations on intellectual property rights, ** it is certainly rational to ask if government voices are sufficient in these debates.

*The USPTO and the LOC recently held a consultation on the treaty in Washington, DC that was limited to 40 participants, and did not permit the meeting to be recorded for broadcasting on the Internet.

**The TRIPS Agreement, the 1996 WCT and WPPT, the highly problematic Appendix the Berne, the highly problematic 2005 amendments to the TRIPS regarding exports of medicines manufactured under a compulsory license, the plethora of recent regional and bilateral IPR chapters in FTA and other trade agreements, and the most recent UPOV plant varieties treaty.


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