Knowledge and information:Intellectual property and copyright in the 21st Century

One of the fundamentals aspects of Intellectual property and copyright are without a doudt how to strike a balance between the private and the public interest. The intellectual property, in the form of copyright and patent regimes is underpinned by a form of censorship, also known as restrictions and limitations. The era of neoliberalization of markets and the mobility of capitals has put forward the argument that in order to help underdeveloped countries gain access to new technological and information technologies they have to agree to the terms and conditions, mainly deregulation of their markets,under which Free Trade Agreements (or FTA) are framed. Opposing these arguments are critics that point out to the diminishing power that developing nations will face when the level of access is restricted and enshrined in patent protectionism and put in display the inbalanced power relationship in these negotiations among the different participants. Furthermore, the focus of these FTA, specially the under way TPPA, is to accentuate the ‘one size fits-all’ approach that does not recognize the different levels of development among nations.

In light of the current trends in the trade of goods and services towards the commodification of ideas and information or what its scholarly known as the knowledge economy (Flew, 2007 pg 99. Moore, E-Lecture,2012). The untangibility of these assets, brings to the fore the importance “of the production, distribution and use of knowledge than ever before”(Flew, 2007 pg.99). The converge of neoliberal claims that free markets and deregulation would enhance capital mobility therefore resulting in poorer nations having access to new technological advances, foreign direct investment (FDI) and Globally Networks of Information and communication technology or (ICTs), research on this matter seems to point out the lack of a causal link between the leves of FDI and development. This is according to the World Bank reseach.

The historical background of international agreements has been recognized to be a mechanism of safeguards that protect the creator of any product to its right to profit from it. The Berne convention, ratified in 1886 by many nations set up the precedent for a system of protection of intellectual property, unsurprisingly, the US was not a signatorie to this convention until the Reagan Era, when there was a recognition that the importance of these treaty. It has been widely aknowledge that the framework of these conventions has to accentuate the rights of intellectual property holders, and to legitimaze the censorship and hegemonize the control and access to new forms of knowledge (Moore, E-Lecture, Min 9:19). In the early days the most prominents lobbiyist for the copyright sector were groups of people such as the Stationers Company, I would compare them to the MPAA of recent times. The aim was to provide the tools for the collection of revenue from creative works mainly in the areas of stationery, as were books and alike known at the time.
As conventions and treaties became common place in the 20th century, globalization and trade, it became necessary to introduce greater intellectual property and copyright regimes of protection. The WTO (World Trade Organization) developed TRIPPS (Trade related aspects of intellectual property rights), GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and the latest work in progress,the TPPA or Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement being negotiated under the auspice of the USTR. It is without a doudt a treaty that will amalgamate and cut across many areas, including health, patents, technology, financial regulation and intellectual property to name a few. From what we know of these treatie, as it is the most secretive agreement of recent times, the charter on Intellectual property signals a strong and aggresive rollback of safeguards to access to medicines, as point out by Medecine sans Frontieres latest media release.
Key Agreements Chart
The scope under which these treaties on intellectual property and patents work, when put under the microscope, are tilted towards the technological advance nations that the underdeveloped states. The elements that are of concern are related to the disadvantage position many develping nations face when enetering these negotiations. Mainly because of the lack of initial building blocks when it comes to technology they are forced into accepting terms of use that are against the interest of their  public domain. For example, the AIDS-HIV access medicines program accentuated the need for cheaper access to medicines and treatments that were otherwise compromise by intellectual and patent regimes that were not of any benefit to the hundreds of thousands in underdeveloped countries, around the globe. The underliying principle for this kind of protectionism is hard to identified beyond the cloud of harmonization policies and trade liberazation. Sometimes the only reason nations enter this agreements is to gain access to the most elemental developments in medicines and technology.
This position of disadvantage seems to create certain tensions between the developed countries and the less developed ones. One of the consequences of having limitations in place is to protect the right of the intelllectual property owner. However, the limitations put in place are overwhelming tilted toward the creators of intellectual property. These kind of regimes does not allow access to what could be considered the essential blocks of innovation. Some argue that the ‘intensity of these tensions has in no smalll part been exascerbated by the arguments of various interest and lobby groups’ (Siew-Kuan Ng, 2010). There is a consensus that is in the best interest for safeguarding public interest, to have access to knowledge that will fomente education and drive innovation. This is how the development of western societies has gotten to the point where we are right now. Throught the establishment of systems of intellectual protection that allowed room for innovation to continue. In the leaked text of the TPPA, there is a strong opposition to the “Fair use” of the Berne Convention and it seems to suggest that the copyright lobbyist had more input in the text than many other interest groups. Despite the rethoric of transparency and openness, the TPPA has advance claims in detriment of the conversation between intellectual property holders and the rest of the population, especially when the essential access to medicines and technology is at stake.
Having a framework that quantifies and qualifies the terms of reference for a fair and sustainable trade regime in which all of the participants  are included in the decision making process is paramount if copyright and intellectual property in the 21st century is to succed. This kind of data analysis could give more backing to the claims to that everyone has ‘to fit’ into the same category. The lack of homogeynity in industries and countries does not guarentee equal conditions and standarization across nations, this results in lack of access and should be corrected.
More importantly the tension between the public and the private interest should start agreing to engage in a more equitable conversation.
Images. Top to bottom
acurtis, 2012. Why you should care about the TPPA, video, YouTube, 18 of April 2012, Viewed on the 24th of september 2012.
WTO, 2012. Deabte:Aid for trade and Global Production Networks, video, YouTube, 11 january 2012. Viewed on the 2october 2012.
Flew, Terry 2007. Understanding global media. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, USA.
Medecins Sans Frontieres, 2012. Trading away Health: How the US’s deamands for the TPP threaten access to medicines. Medecins Sans Frontieres.Org.  Viewed 4th of October 2012.
Siew-Kuan NG, Elizabeth 2010. Global health and development: Patents and public interest. Ebook, Cambridge University Press in Incentives for Global Public Health: Patent Law and access to essential medicines, Pogge, Thomas, Rimmer  Matthew and Rubenstein Kim, first edition, Cambridge.
World Bank, 2011. The world Bank Economic Review, Research

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