Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Human Rights and Intellectual Property

In 2001, the United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights produced a Statement on Human Rights and Intellectual Property. This statement commenced with the recognition of the three key aspects of intellectual property in a knowledge economy - creation, ownership, and control - and the way these interact with human rights, negatively or positively. At that time, the Committee resolved to prepare and adopt a general comment on the relationship between human rights and intellectual property and yesterday, during the Committee's 35th Session, the general comment was completed and adopted under the Agenda item "Substantive issues arising in the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights."

Although the document remains confidential, the Geneva-based Intellectual Property Watch suggests that the final text may be public by the end of this week. IP-Watch has released a full report on the general comment, in which it notes that the document concentrates on the relationship between creators (authors) and government, rather than the industry-government dynamic that has been disconcerting to many groups, suggesting an increasingly commercial model of creativity and a possible loss of emphasis on other concerns.

Although not dealing with patents as such (the general statement is concerned with article 15 (c), "the right to benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author"), the final text will be of particular interest to the Patenting Lives Project in the way it negotiates the relationships between individual creators, governments, and commercial interests. How creativity is understood in this document, and how the autonomy of individual creators might be recognised and facilitated in an increasingly economic substantiation of intellectual property rights, will be fundamental issues to watch.

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