Statement of the Free Software Foundations Europe & Latin America to the 2005 WIPO general assemblies
Georg C. F. Greve
greve at gnu.org
Sat Oct 1 10:09:17 UTC 2005
[ http://fsfeurope.org/projects/wipo/statement-20050930.en.html ]
Statement of the Free Software Foundations
Free Software Foundation Europe
Free Software Foundation Latin America
towards the 2005 WIPO general assemblies
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.
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.
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
New regulations should only be introduced if scientific evidence and
evidence from a public review period conclusively show it to have a
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
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.
Thank you for your attention.
Statement by Mr. Georg C.F. Greve <greve at fsfeurope.org>
Free Software Foundation Europe, President
More information about the Discussion