[FSFE PR][EN] WSIS PCT WG: WIPO should prevent software patents, shorten copyright span

Georg C. F. Greve greve at fsfeurope.org
Thu Jul 21 16:49:39 CEST 2005

[ http://fsfeurope.org/projects/wipo/statement-20050721.en.html ]

                              STATEMENT BY THE

                       WORKING GROUP OF CIVIL SOCIETY

                                AT THE THIRD
                                MEETING ON A
                        DEVELOPMENT AGENDA FOR WIPO

                         (Geneva, 20-22 July 2005)

   The WSIS Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks Working Group of Civil
   Society participated in the World Summit on the Information Society in
   its first and second phase, addressing many issues of knowledge
   control, software and the internet.

   During the first summit in Geneva, we witnessed how the member states
   of the United Nations formally agreed that knowledge dissemination and
   sharing are fundamental building blocks of a knowledge society.
   Quoting article 42 of the Declaration of Principles:

   ``Intellectual Property protection is important to encourage
   innovation and creativity in the Information Society; similarly, the
   wide dissemination, diffusion, and sharing of knowledge is important
   to encourage innovation and creativity. Facilitating meaningful
   participation by all in intellectual property issues and knowledge
   sharing through full awareness and capacity building is a fundamental
   part of an inclusive Information Society.''

   It is in this spirit that we see the Development Agenda proposed by
   the Friends of Development: patents, copyrights and trademarks are
   designed to limit access and knowledge sharing. If applied wisely and
   with measure, they can foster creativity and innovation. If applied
   carelessly, they can kill both along with their potential benefit for
   society: progress. This holds true for any nation in this world, rich
   or poor, north or south.

   The Friends of Development propose within their Development Agenda to
   apply benchmarks to WIPO's policies and treaties in order to maximise
   their benefit for all of humankind, including, but not limited to, the
   developing nations.

   The PCT Working Group strongly supports the proposal made by the
   Friends of Development for a Development Agenda, from which we expect
   positive consequences for the implementation of the WSIS plan of

   Furthermore, we wish to share some of the points that were important
   for the debate during the World Summit on the Information Society and
   that we feel will add substance to the Development Agenda proposal.

   As the global civil society represented at the WSIS stated in its
   essential principles of 14. November 2003: ``Human knowledge,
   including the knowledge of all peoples and communities, also those who
   are remote and excluded, is the heritage of all humankind and the
   reservoir from which new knowledge is created.''

   In the past years, we have witnessed an ongoing expansion of the
   duration of copyright, and thus the timespan during which that
   reservoir remains subject to limited access. At the same time, the
   barriers to access have been raised by means of anti-circumvention
   policies and approaches to put violations under criminal law.

   In the information society, knowledge is circulating and outdated
   faster, not slower: to adapt to that fact, the duration of copyright
   should be shortened considerably. For this we would also like to focus
   your attention on the WSIS Declaration of Principles, article 26:

   ``A rich public domain is an essential element for the growth of the
   Information Society, creating multiple benefits such as an educated
   public, new jobs, innovation, business opportunities, and the
   advancement of sciences.''

   The internet has not only paved the way for the knowledge age, it also
   represents the latest seminal innovative step of humankind. It was
   made at a time when the barriers to access were much lower. A
   comparable breakthrough might be made impossible by these increased
   barriers: we should reconsider these barriers to make sure we do not
   disable the next breakthrough; this in particular refers to the
   anti-circumvention provisions and approaches at criminalising
   copyright violations, but is not limited to them.

   Patents are another area in need of review that we identified
   throughout the WSIS: they can be an excellent tool to promote
   innovation, but their effects differ between areas.

   Scientific studies for instance show that software is an area in which
   patents are harmful: they stifle innovation and pose a significant
   threat to competition; evidence for this has been collected by several
   renowned institutions, including the [3]Massachussetts Institute of
   Technology (MIT), the [4]Boston University School of Law, [5]Price
   Waterhouse Coopers, [6]US Federal Trade Commission and [7]Deutsche
   Bank Research.

   Similar effects may exist in other areas and can serve to undermine
   the patent system overall. We therefore encourage the Member States to
   start a dialog with the goal of establishing clear and binding ruleset
   to limit the scope of the patent system. These should take into
   account the full diversity of areas and ensure the stability and
   functioning of the patent system as a tool for innovation.

   Given the scope and significance of these issues, only few of them can
   be adequately dealt with on committee level. Mainstreaming the
   development dimension into all of WIPO's activities requires the
   continuation of the overarching IIM process.

   We sincerely hope that progress, wisdom, courage and global vision
   shall prevail in this necessary debate.

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

   Free Software Foundation Europe, President
   UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
     * Civil Society Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks (PCT) Working Group,
     * First phase Civil Society representative, German Governmental
     * European Caucus, Coordinator

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