Conference report Access to Knowledge

By EDRi · June 2, 2005

On 12 and 13 May 2005 the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) organised a successful conference in London to make progress on a draft international treaty on Access to Knowledge (A2K). It was the third meeting of a very diverse expert group of academics, educators, representatives of libraries, consumer organisations and people from the open source movement. During the conference all the detailed provisions laid out in each of the sections of the draft treaty were debated in separate sessions. Thanks to strong pressure from the chairs, urging speakers to be pointed in their assessments and short in their speech, the analysis was completed on time and recorded in every detail.

This global coalition took shape in September 2004, when TACD organised a session in Geneva to discuss reform of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). The meeting laid down a challenge to WIPO to reform rules relating to intellectual property (IP), such as copyright and patents. The joint goal is providing wider access to knowledge, especially for poorer consumers in developing countries and restoring a balance in IP-rules to uphold the traditional rights of users.

A second meeting in Geneva in February 2005 determined that it was necessary to develop a new treaty, or at least principles, to redress this imbalance as part of a ‘development agenda’. Led by the Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech), an expert group began drafting the treaty.

At this third meeting around one hundred participants were present, about half academic or legal experts, and half representing consumer and user groups. A substantial minority came from developing countries, including Brazil, India, Kenya, Malaysia South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The next step will be to incorporate all the amendments, additions, omissions and other suggested changes to produce a new draft that will be circulated to meeting participants for final comments. When this has been completed, the draft can be presented to governments and promoted around the world, maybe even at the WIPO General Assembly in September 2005. Ultimately, it is hoped that the treaty, or at least the ideas that are driving it, will be adopted and ratified by WIPO, and incorporated into national laws and a modern way of looking at intellectual property.

Overview Access to Knowledge initiative and draft text

EDRI-gram, Geneva meeting on access to knowledge (10.03.2005)

(Contribution by Kaye Stearman, Consumers International)