Today’s guest post is by Konstantinos Komaitis, Geneva-based Policy Advisor to the Internet Society.
In June 2013, the Internet Society released a paper on how it would like to see the discussions of intellectual property evolve. The focus of the paper was on process rather than on substance. The goal was not to reinvent the wheel. On the contrary, the Internet Society, having paid attention to the way discussions have been shaping and the way the arguments have been evolving, took the initiative to put forth a set of best practices that should underline all intellectual property discussions regardless of whether they are taking place at a national, regional or international level.
Upholding transparency, encouraging multistakeholder and inclusive structures, respecting the rule of law, understanding the Internet’s underlying architecture and appreciating the Internet’s open standards are of value because they support better and more informed decision making. This was the basis for our paper. For the purposes of this blog, however, I will focus on the value of ‘openness’.
But, first, let’s put things in context.
Intellectual property is unquestionably one of the most debated issues of Internet governance and, over the years, it has emerged as a key issue in the policy agendas of many governments. The argument, primarily from countries with strong intellectual property economies is that online infringement of intellectual property rights is detrimental to the commercial interests of intellectual property holders and, therefore, to the global economy as a whole.
Many contest this view. They argue that intellectual property is becoming increasingly irrelevant and it is out of balance and out of tune with the realities of a global Internet that is constantly changing. They claim that intellectual property is antithetical to core Internet values and often go as far as to suggest that we should abolish intellectual property all together.
In all likelihood, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. When it comes to the digital environment, the issue is how to reconcile existing intellectual property regimes with the realities of the online environment. Whereas traditional intellectual property rules are based on a web of alienable ownership rights and territorial licensing frameworks and restrictions, the Internet is a global medium, which has often behaved similarly to public commons. The current legal principles surrounding copyright, trademarks and patents reflect a period when the sharing and the exchange of ideas did not have the same dimensions they have today. What hasn’t changed, however, is the desire by creators of content to protect and benefit from their creations.
The question for all of us is how to structure an intellectual property framework for the Internet age – one that respects the needs of creators, is consistent with the global nature of the Internet, and is inclusive of a broader range of stakeholders.