TACD debate on the politics and ideology of intellectual property

By EDRi · March 29, 2006

Civil society groups from around the world met in Brussels 20/21 March
to discuss the politics and ideology of intellectual property. Speakers
included representatives from WIPO and the EU, former US Patent
Commissioner Bruce Lehman, consumer and development campaigners and
noted IP academics Peter Drahos and Susan Sell.

The conference tried to step back from immediate IP controversies and
take a look at the rhetoric and politicking behind the framing of IP
debates and legislation. Jamie Love set the tone for the meeting by
looking at the loaded terms used by proponents and critics of stronger
IP rights, contrasting positive language such as “innovation”, “value”
and “wealth creation” with negative descriptions such as “monopoly”,
“privilege” and “exploitation”.

The practical politics of the recent software patent debate were laid
out by pro-patent lobbyist Jonathan Zuck, anti-software patents
campaigner Florian Muller and European Parliament member and patent
attorney Sharon Bowles. Bowles complained that few involved in the
debate understood even the definitions involved; many in the audience
doubtless felt the same way! Bruce Lehman and Rufus Pollock described
the pro-IP consensus that exists across mainstream US and EU political
parties, which gave Green MEP David Hammerstein a chance to describe his
party’s lone stance that instead favours innovation and consumer rights.

The most notable comment of the conference came from Bruce Lehman. While
head of intellectual property policy for President Clinton, he drove the
creation of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual
Property Rights (TRIPS), which embedded IP into global trade treaties.
But Lehman now feels that TRIPS has been a “huge failure” for the US,
providing US market access to developing countries that have not
reciprocated with strong IP enforcement.

Europeans can only hope that those in the Commission and member state
governments responsible for IP policy are listening to this gale of
criticism of ever-stronger private property rights in ideas. Leonardo
Cervera Navas of DG Internal Market said at the meeting that shorter
copyright terms were politically unthinkable. The debate will only move
forward once such blinkers are removed and we see evidence- rather than
faith-based IP policy development.

TACD Conference website: The Politics and Ideology of Intellectual Property

Lehman: TRIPS was a mistake (20.03.2006)

The debate on software patents as a litmus test for the knowledge
society (in German, 21.03.2006)

Discussion over intellectual monopoly rights at TACD’s Brussels conference

Experts: Intellectual Property Policy Not A Traditional Left-Right Political
Issue (21.03.2006)

The Politics and Ideology of Intellectual Property – A New Political

(Contribution by EDRI board member Ian Brown)