Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Day 2: Chile's presentation of its proposal

Tuesday, 21 February 2006
Thiru Balasubramaniam

The morning session continued with general statements on the Development Agenda process.

The afternoon session resumed with a focused discussion of the Chilean proposal. Chile made a detailed presentation of its proposal. Chile elaborated on its three main points: (1) recognizing the value of the public domain, (2) the "importance of complementary systems to and in intellectual property" and (3) conducting a "study for assessing what are the appropriate levels of intellectual property, considering the particular situation in each country, specifically its degree of development and institutional capacity".

On the public domain, Chile stressed that its intentions were not about attributing a monetary value to the public domain but rather to recognize its inherent value to society. He noted that the benefits of a rich and vibrant public domain were obvious to the education, government and business sectors. For patent offices, the public domain could be used to see what prior art was available throughout the world.

The delegated reiterated that Chile's starting premise was that
nothing is created out of nothing. The greater the works in the public domain the greater the creation. We don't want to put fences around the public domain.

The delegate noted that patents and copyright laws could have a negative effect on the public. He reminded the committee that around a 100 years ago, various limits were put on the public domain through these laws. He remarked that while they may have been justified one by one, taken as a whole, they have reduced the public domain.

According to Chile,
[c]opyright was originally designed to protect author's rights, artists and performers. We are now discussing new rightholders that can have claims to the same work. The number of rights conferred on rightholders have increased. And we have increased the terms of protection of both copyright and patent.

Chile reminded Member States with respective to retrospective protection, there exists a presumption about the ownership of works under Article 18 of the Berne Convention. There are so-called "orphan works" Chile said that some industrialized country legislation dealt with this problem.

Chile noted a national initiative to digitalize all copyright works so they would be available when they move into the public domain.

With respect to its second proposal on complementary systems to and in intellectual property, Chile noted that WIPO should have a discussion on creative commons and free and open source software. Chile noted that while there could be difficulties in setting up a permanent forum to discuss these complementary systems, the delegate suggested that a time-limited electronic discussion forum or its inclusion as a standing agenda item in a WIPO Committee as a means for further consideration at WIPO.

With respect to its proposal on impact assessments on the effects of IP on development. Chile suggested country studies on specific issues such as patents and copyright, L&E, and alternative systems. The study could comprise a small selection of developing and developed countries on a voluntary basis. Chile indicated its willingness to participate in such a study.

A substantive debate followed Chile's presentation which I will blog on in the near future.

Here is a list of public interest NGO interventions in support of the Chilean proposal.

Civil Society Coalition (CSC)
IP Justice
Third World Network

Thanks to Gwen Hinze (EFF) and Teresa Hackett (eIFL) for inputs.