After several months of hard work (which have led to a lot of silence on this blog), I have finally finished my Master’s thesis. It’s titled "Access to Knowledge in a Network Society".
In the thesis, I describe the WIPO discussion on a development agenda in the context of the ongoing discussion about how we manage our knowledge. Here’s the abstract:
As the network has become the dominant organising pattern of society,
knowledge has taken centre stage in the economy. Having access to
knowledge determines who can participate in this informational economy,
and on what terms. But knowledge is different from physical goods: it is
nonrival and non-exclusive. It is also the input of its own production
process: Knowledge builds upon knowledge. A key player in the
international system of the regulation of knowledge is the World
Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Its approach presently relies
mainly on intellectual monopoly powers (often called "intellectual
property"). Other models, such as commons-based peer production, are
usually not considered.
After providing an overview over recent work in the field, this thesis
examines how access to knowledge is regulated, and what conflicts are
caused by this regulation. The debate on a development agenda for WIPO
offers a vantage point from which to describe the tensions that exist in
the international framework for the regulation of knowledge.
Looking at the first year of the WIPO debate, it becomes clear that
there are two major lines of conflict. One is between developing and
developed countries, which often have different understandings of the
purpose of IMPs. As a consequence, they prefer different solutions to
the problems at hand: while developed countries are looking to create a
global system of regulation with uniformly strict standards for
intellectual monopolies, developing countries require room for
experimentation. The second line of conflict is between rightsholders
and the users of knowledge. Rightsholders generally would like to
tighten standards, while user groups highlight the importance of access.
Besides a reform of WIPO, experimentation is needed to find viable and
sustainable strategies for governing knowledge. The project of a treaty
on access to knowledge provides ideas and offers an opportunity for
debate on the way ahead.