Discussions continue on a development agenda for WIPO

By EDRi · March 1, 2006

A first session of the Provisional Committee on Proposals Related to a WIPO
Development Agenda took place on 20-24 February 2006 in Geneva to discuss
about proposals for a development agenda.

EDRI was present during the meeting in its new role as officially
acknowledged observer. The WIPO Development Agenda is a far-reaching
proposal that was initiated by the governments of Argentina and Brazil
and adopted by the General Assembly in October 2004. The Development
Agenda calls for fundamental changes to address the special concerns
of developing countries, but also in general to give more weight to public
and consumer interests.

The meeting had a slow start as Member States spent Monday
morning negotiating the appointment of the Chairperson. Discussions followed
on substantive issues contained in the proposals over the next days and NGOs
were given the opportunity to intervene after each round of discussions.

Four proposals were discussed from :
– Chile, advocating greater protection of information in the public domain;
– Colombia to allow the national offices of developing countries to access
databases for patent searches;
– Friends of Development (FoD), a group of 15 developing countries,
stressesing the need for the a more structured meeting that will allow the
provisional committee to come up with concrete and practical results by the
end of its second session.
– United States on Internet-based tools to facilitate development.

Volker Grassmuck, representing EDRI at this WIPO meeting, commented on the
US proposal by questioning the commercial viability of Digital Restrictions
Management (DRM):

“Two days ago during the informal lunchtime session, we heard from a
representative of IFPI that the online music market is finally taking
off. Where this is true, it not related to DRM at all. The largest
online music provider, Apple’s iTunes Music Store, allows users to write
standard Red Book audio CDs which then can be converted into formats
such as “ogg vorbis” or “MP3” with standard tools. Apple’s CEO Steve
Jobs has made public statements that his company has studied DRM closely
and came to the conclusion that DRM does not work. Therefore Apple
iTunes is instead using something that has been termed “Digital
Inconvenience Management”.

The second largest service, eMusic.com with more than 1 million titles
from 3,800 independent record labels around the globe selling more than
3.5 million songs per month, is not using any protection technology at
all, but is selling clean, unencumbered high-quality MP3s – which did
not prevent but rather enabled them to become number two in a difficult

Mr Grassmuck also emphasised the potential of commons-based peer production:
“On the other hand, large-scale highly distributed collaboration is
one of the impressively proven strengths of the Internet. What has been
termed “commons-based peer production” has unleashed a tremendous wealth
of creativity in science, software, encyclopaedias, textbooks, music and
many other areas. These knowledge resources are freely accessible to
people in the developing and the developed world alike. The necessary
prerequisite for this collaboration is that the rights to these jointly
produced works are held in common. Without licenses like the GNU GPL and
Creative Commons each participant would have to get permission from
every other co-participant, meaning that such collaborative projects
would simply not exist.
From the US’s perspective that only strong IPRs and their enforcement
are safeguarding creative production, this seems counter-intuitive. But
since the sustained effect of free and open collaboration is undeniable,
the problem is not with the facts but with the intuition.”

Subsequent discussions are scheduled for 26-30 June 2006, in preparation of
the General Assembly in September 2006. The Provisional Committee is
mandated to provide recommendations on a development agenda for the General

WIPO – Meeting documents (24.02.2006)

European Digital Rights Statement on the U.S. Proposal to the PCDA

IP Justice – WIPO Development Agenda – Documents submitted by NGOs

Country proposals, NGO statements, blog and news articles on the WIPO
Development Agenda

EDRI-gram : EDRI statement at WIPO Development Agenda meeting (IIM)