A more detailed “declaration of principles” arising out of preparations for the forthcoming World Summit on the Information Society has brought criticism that it overemphasises the protection of rights to intellectual property at the cost of wider public access to scientific advances.
Intellectual property is a hot topic in the wider IT community due particularly to DE Technologies’ e-commerce patent.
The WSIS documents underemphasise the basic human right to access and impart information, say critics. Similar views have been expressed in New Zealand civil society discussion towards the summit.
The Human Rights in the Information Society Caucus, mandated by the civil society constituency at the most recent meeting, in Paris, to speak on its behalf, says the declaration’s statement about protection of intellectual property “breaks the delicate balance of article 27 of the [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] between the rights of authors and the rights of all people to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. Worse still, the [WSIS] declaration does not even refer to authors or creators, but only to rights owners.”
The draft text of the declaration says: “Intellectual property protection is essential to the information society. Existing intellectual property regimes and international agreements should continuously provide this protection, so as to contribute to this objective, thus promoting the necessary balance between owners and users of intellectual property.”
On basic rights, the draft WSIS declaration says: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.” This, the HRIS caucus says, “amputates” Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by omitting the phrase “through any media and regardless of frontiers”. The caucus is concerned about the latitude given in the WSIS document for national laws and regulations to abridge information rights.
In the New Zealand discussion, de-emphasis of general information rights at the expense of special points, such as “internet safety” and the rights of cultural minorities, has been criticised and discussion has returned in part to general rights.
The summit is scheduled to take place in Geneva from December 10-12.