Sunday, July 29, 2007

Canada: let's focus on sharing

The government of Canada is seeking the Views of Canadians to Assess Canadian Intellectual Property Interests in Selected Markets. That is, Canada is working on free trade agreements with Peru, Columbia, and the Dominican Republic.

Participatory democracy is a wonderful thing, and consultation can be an effective way to enable participatory democracy. However, this approach to consultation is biased in the extreme; that is, it presupposes that what is most important to Canadians in our trade relationships with these countries is IP protection for Canadian economic rights.

The government of Canada invites us to further discuss these initiatives or learn more about the Government's approach to intellectual property in trade and investment negotiations.

Canadians, rather than filling out this biased questionnaire, please consider e-mailing or faxing a letter to Foreign Affairs and your MP, and let them know what you think is important in these trade negotiations.

Some thoughts:

Intellectual property is about more than money.

Our collective knowledge is a public good; when the sum of all that we know is shared with everyone, we all benefit. If we are talking with other countries about IP, let's talk about open access to scholarly research funded by taxpayers in all of countries. If Canada, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Columbia, all implement OA mandate policies, we all have more knowledge.

Let's talk about respect for traditional knowledge, which often follows different forms than our current emphasis on individual title. For example, intellectual property may belong to a group of people rather than an individual.

When we are talking with developing countries, let's focus on what kinds of intellectual property policies would benefit them, not just what would benefit some of us.

Added July 29:
The Canadian Library Association's Information and Telecommunications Access Policies provides some philosophical background which may be helpful in framing a reply to this consultation. [Disclosure: I am the Co-Convenor of the Canadian Library Association's Intellectual Property and Public Access Committee / Working Group on Information Policy].

In particular:

From the Preamble:
The convergence of computers and high-speed telecommunication networks provides increased opportunity for public access to information and participation in the democratic processes of society. Conversely, access and participation could be reduced through the imposition of user fees and centralized control.

Librarians, libraries, and library organizations will work to assure the 'public good' is represented in all government and corporate initiatives for information dissemination and telecommunications policy.

Comment: a free-trade agreement that covers intellectual property will have impact on information dissemination. Focusing on protecting economic IP interests is likely to result in restriction of information dissemination.

Section 2. covers Universal, Equitable, and Affordable Access. Comment: let's make sure that the people of Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Columbia have universal, equitable, and affordable access to information and access to telecommunications (i.e., the internet), before we looking at protecing economic IP interests.

Section 3. Communicate. Individuals have the right to create, exchange, access, and receive the widest range of ideas, information, and images.

Comment: for scholarly information, the best way to achieve this is is through open access. For other types of information, what is important is that everyone have the ability to both disseminate and receive information - whether the aim is economic or not.

Section 4: Public space on the telecommunications network. Last point: Social policies accompanying the introduction of new and more efficient information technologies must emphasize benefits to the whole population, such as greater leisure time and shorter work weeks rather than narrow economic interests.

Comment: when working on trade agreements with developing countries, why not include fair trade, not just free trade?

This post is part of the Creative Globalization series.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment. Comments on IJPE are moderated.