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October 5, 2005

New IPI publication on IP and human rights

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During the just-concluded WIPO General Assemblies, the Institute for Policy Innovation (the sponsor of this blog) released a new 2-page publication called Intellectual Property Rights and Human Rights, co-authored by yours truly (Tom Giovanetti) and Dr. Merrill Matthews.

It was a real cat-and-mouse game keeping it out on the literature table in Geneva. There were substantial forces at work who didn't particularly like having the publication out. For one thing, there were about a dozen leftist NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) who really hate the argument that IPRs are human rights, and more than once I personally watched as one of them would walk by and grab all remaining copies off of the table and walk away.

Also, WIPO itself was pretty possessive of the literature tables, and wanted all the space for their many things they needed to release. And, when you consider that they have to release everything in 6 languages, you can kind of understand that even a 1-page press release takes up a lot of space.

So I would put out a short stack of about 35 copies and then go sit down and listen to the debate. But I'd keep an eye on the table (about 25 feet away), and I'd keep supplementing them as needed. I learned to remove all remaining copies if I was going to leave for lunch or at the end of the day (or for any other reason), and then replace them upon my return.

Such are the dramas and intrigues of the international policy world. It ain't exactly James Bond, but it was generally more interesting than what was going on in the debate chamber itself.

The conclusion of the paper:

IP protection has long been recognized as a basic human right, and the tension between the rights of the creators and the rights of consumers has been successfully resolved by the development and modification of intellectual property protections over the years.

Those who want to weaken IP protections are really tapping into a failed and discredited economic theory that the public doesn’t benefit from privately owned goods. However, expropriation of others’ property not only undermines creation and invention, it also undermines economies and societies. It is, ironically, one of the most “anti-human rights” actions governments could take.

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