Statement of the Free Software Foundations Europe & Latin America to the 2005 WIPO general assemblies

Georg C. F. Greve greve at
Sat Oct 1 10:09:17 UTC 2005

[ ]

Statement of the Free Software Foundations

                      Free Software Foundation Europe

                   Free Software Foundation Latin America

                                    towards the 2005 WIPO general assemblies

   Mr. Chairman,

   on behalf of the Free Software Foundations Europe and Latin America,
   let me express my congratulations to you and your colleagues on your
   chairing this historic general assembly. The Free Software Foundations
   are globally active centres of expertise acting in a network of sister
   organisations based in India, Latin America, Europe and the United
   States of America.

   Our area of expertise are the issues raised by a digitised society and
   economy, questions which are addressed effectively by Free Software;
   as defined by the freedom of unlimited use for any purpose, the
   freedom to study, the freedom to modify and the freedom to distribute.

   Through the Free Software Foundation Europe the FSFs participated in
   all sessions of the Development Agenda IIM process and also followed
   the broadcasting treaty negotiations with great interest. Our comments
   relate to both activities.

   Mr Chairman,

   much has been said and written about the knowledge society that
   humankind is about to enter. Looking at the regulatory initiatives,
   one stumbles upon a paradox: While society is getting ready to unleash
   human creativity as it has never done before, regulatory proposals
   seek to create new barriers.

   The Broadcasting Treaty is a good example of such a new barrier for
   which the potential benefits and costs seem unequally matched in
   disfavor of humankind.

   The result of ignoring the wisdom of approaching crucial legal
   regulation can be seen in another area: software patents have been
   introduced without evaluation, and according to the findings of
   several renowned institutions we now have to realise that they are
   harmful to competition and stifle innovation. For your information:
   these institutions include Massachussetts Institute of Technology
   (MIT), the Boston University School of Law, Price Waterhouse Coopers,
   US Federal Trade Commission and Deutsche Bank Research.

   The situation has degenerated to the point that a vice president of
   IBM, Mr Wladawsky-Berger, likened software patents to weapons of mass
   destruction in a New York Times interview.

   Similar experiences seem possible with the Broadcasting Treaty.

   Erecting additional barriers and raising all barriers by introduction
   of criminal sanctions against commercial infringement at a time when
   humankind is still struggling to fully understand the implications of
   the digital age would be hasty and unwise.

   Mr. Chairman,

   the traditional toolset of WIPO revolves centrally around limited
   monopolies, such as Copyrights, Patents or Trademarks. These have
   often been treated on the basis that more is always better, an
   approach that ignores both Liebigs law of the minimum as well as
   Shelfords law of tolerance: Not only will increasing the dose of the
   non-limiting factor have no positive effect, an overdose can be toxic.

   Finding the proper balance between too little and too much is the
   challenge that lies before any regulation. Given the fundamental
   impact of all regulations made on WIPO level, wisdom would suggest a
   conservative approach:

   New regulations should only be introduced if scientific evidence and
   evidence from a public review period conclusively show it to have a
   positive effect.

   Old regulations should be reviewed periodically as to whether they are
   still up to the needs of the time, or whether they require adjustment.

   In the light of the wisdom of Liebig and Shelford, agreeing to the
   creation of a WIPO Research and Evaluation Office (WERO) would seem
   trivial, so would the search for alternative means of fostering

   As the secretariat and member states correctly pointed out repeatedly
   in the past: WIPO exists to promote creativity. At the time of its
   inception, most alternative means of fostering creativity were not yet
   concieved, in particular those related to digitalisation. Now that
   they exist, what would seem more natural for WIPO than exploring them?

   The discussions around the Development Agenda have proven to be most
   difficult, also because of procedural discussions, which indeed took
   the majority of the time spent in the IIM process. After these had
   been largely resolved, substantive discussion took place, cut short by
   the need to come to a formal outcome that could be presented to this
   general assembly.

   Not continuing what was begun, or changing from a horse to a mule
   midstream, as the honored Indian delegate so eloquently put it, would
   be wasting the time and effort spent on this initiative by all sides,
   North and South. For this reason we strongly support the notion of
   letting the IIM process finish what it began.

   Mr Chairman,

   Thank you for your attention.

   Statement by Mr. Georg C.F. Greve <greve at> 

   Free Software Foundation Europe, President

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