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<nettime> jamie love: USPTO, Microsoft seek to kill WIPO meeting on open
t byfield on Wed, 20 Aug 2003 23:20:51 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> jamie love: USPTO, Microsoft seek to kill WIPO meeting on open collaborative models to develop public goods

----- Forwarded 

From: James Love <james.love {AT} cptech.org>
Subject: USPTO, Microsoft seek to kill WIPO meeting on open collaborative
      models to develop public goods
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2003 13:27:50 -0400

August 19, 2003. Technology Daily PM Edition

Intellectual Property
Global Group's Shift On 'Open Source' Meeting Spurs Stir
by William New

A request for a meeting on open development issues has plunged the 
Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) into a 
Washington political battle, causing it to shift its position on the issue.

At issue is whether WIPO should hold a meeting next year on "open and 
collaborative projects" such as "open source" software, which allows 
users to view and modify underlying code.

The meeting was proposed in a July 7 letter sent to WIPO Director 
General Kamil Idris by 68 distinguished scientists, academics, 
technologists, open-source advocates, consumer advocates, librarians, 
industry representatives and economists worldwide.

Although the letter cited a broad range of open collaborative projects 
such as the World Wide Web and the Human Genome Project, the fight has 
focused on open-source software and on one signer of the letter -- James 
Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, who has actively 
pushed for the meeting.

WIPO's initial response to the idea was so favorable that proponents 
began planning for a meeting. After receiving the letter, Francis Gurry, 
WIPO's assistant director and legal counsel, e-mailed a statement to a 
Nature magazine reporter calling such open development models "a very 
important and interesting development."

"The director general of WIPO looks forward with enthusiasm to taking up 
the invitation to organize a conference to explore the scope and 
application of these models as vehicles for encouraging innovation," he 

But a few weeks later, WIPO backed off the idea. Gurry said he and other 
WIPO officials received "many calls" from consumer groups, trade 
associations, professional associations and representatives from 

"What happened in the intervening weeks is that a request for an open 
discussion on a range of 'projects' became transformed into an 
increasingly domestically, as opposed to internationally, oriented, 
polarized political and trade debate about one only of those 'projects', 
namely open-source software," Gurry told National Journal's Technology 
Daily on Tuesday. "In those circumstances, the possibility of conducting 
a policy discussion on intellectual property of the sort that might be 
appropriate for an international organization devoted to intellectual 
property became increasingly remote."

U.S. government officials have argued that WIPO is an inappropriate 
place for such a meeting.

One developing country representative to WIPO on Monday expressed 
disappointment at hearing that the meeting is in doubt, and Love and 
representatives from the Computer and Communications Industry 
Association (CCIA) were furious to learn of the shift. Love last week 
called the decision a "temporary setback," and vowed, "We're going to 
make this happen." But for meeting opponents, he said, it would be "as 
if you made an atheist pope for the day."

CCIA President Ed Black said on Tuesday: "Does this indicate that WIPO 
is abdicating authority and responsibility for these issues, including 
open source for the future? If so, we will all live by that, but then so 
must they. They should step up the plate or step aside. ... It is 
inexplicable that they would shut the door on what are clearly important 

Intellectual Property
U.S. Official Opposes 'Open Source' Talks At WIPO
by William New

An international intellectual property body is not the place for 
discussions about "open source" software, which allows users to view and 
modify the underlying code, because it falls outside of the 
organization's mission, a senior U.S. official argued on Monday.
Reviewing the original mission of the World Intellectual Property 
Organization (WIPO), said Lois Boland, the U.S. Patent and Trademark 
Office (PTO) acting director of international relations, it is "clearly 
limited to the protection of intellectual property. To have a meeting 
whose primary objective is to waive or remove those protections seems to 
go against the mission."

Boland was referring to a July request by a group of scientists, 
academics, open-source advocates and others for a meeting at WIPO on 
"open and collaborative projects," including open-source software. The 
WIPO secretariat initially replied favorably to the idea.
In a telephone interview, Boland gave several reasons why the 
Geneva-based WIPO should not hold the meeting, including a tight budget 
and late scheduling. She also said WIPO's agenda should be driven by 
member nations, and the idea came from outside the organization.
Officials from the 179 WIPO nations will convene in late September to 
decide their agenda for the next two years; the agenda has been in the 
works for months and does not include open-development issues. "It would 
have been somewhat unusual for such a meeting to materialize out of 
nothing," Boland said.

In the past six months, WIPO has had to cancel several meetings on 
topics directly relevant to the organization due to budgetary issues, 
she said, adding that with those problems, the organization should not 
"go out on a limb and express receptivity" to an open-development meeting.
U.S. government officials have had "informal" communications with WIPO, 

Boland said. A WIPO official said that since receiving a wide range of 
communications, WIPO has stepped back from the idea of a meeting but has 
not fully rejected the possibility of addressing the topic.

The U.S. government has an interagency process for developing formal 
positions at WIPO. A meeting that included officials from PTO and the 
Copyright Office was held last Thursday at the State Department. The 
Commerce Department and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are part 
of the interagency process, too.

Boland said the United States "would certainly have some rather 
bureaucratic objections" to WIPO considering a policy on open-source 
software. "There are technical and legalistic arguments to that." 
Open-source software is not protected under copyright law but only 
contract law, which is not the domain of WIPO, she said. That point has 
been heavily disputed by copyright experts.

Boland suggested that the U.S. government supports open-source growth as 
a development tool and she proposed it for consideration by a U.N. body 
focused on development.

She also reprimanded WIPO officials for publicly giving the impression 
that the body might consider open-source issues. "We think people 
working within the organization need to be better stewards of 
interactions" with nonprofit groups and other non-member organizations, 
she said.

James Love, Director, Consumer Project on Technology
http://www.cptech.org, mailto:james.love {AT} cptech.org
tel. +1.202.387.8030, mobile +1.202.361.3040

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