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An Introduction to WIPO, Part II: The fight for Users’ Rights in Geneva

The fight over the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market has shown that European copyright rules affect the operation of Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects. Global rules are equally important. Negotiations take place in Geneva, at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Wikimedia Deutschland and the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group are committed to increasing transparency around WIPO negotiations on international copyright law, and shaping WIPO-level policy outcomes, especially facing the pressure by rightsholders’ to expand the scope of copyright protections. This is the second installment of a series on Wikimedia’s involvement at WIPO (part I).

An imbalanced debate

The public debate on copyright has been heavily skewed in favor of rightsholders’ concerns since the very beginning. Veterans will remember the early days where discussions centered on illicit file sharing and digital protection measures. Over the last couple of years, this has culminated in the mandating of upload filters via the Digital Single Market Directive’s infamous article 17. Advocates of users’ rights have always stressed that international rules need not just to protect rightsholders’ interests, but also the public domain and fundamental rights, including the right to education. 

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A little less conversation, a little more action, please: The EU and the TRIPS Waiver

Two weeks after the United States declared support for a temporary waiver on intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, the EU is still struggling to agree on a joint position. Germany where BioNTech – one of the leading mRNA vaccine developers – is headquartered is leading opposition against the so-called TRIPS Waiver. The fact that many EU member states are reluctant to consider this instrument may prolong the COVID-19 pandemic. 

An unexpected ally

The TRIPS Waiver initially put forward by India and South Africa would allow WTO members to temporarily suspend intellectual property protections to make diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines more widely available and more affordable. TRIPS stands for the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which is a core treaty of the World Trade Organization. Wikimedia Deutschland supports the TRIPS Waiver.

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What happens in Geneva shouldn’t stay in Geneva: Wikimedia and international copyright negotiations

The fight over the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market has highlighted that European copyright rules affect the operation of Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects. The global-level regulatory framework is equally important, and that fight takes place in Geneva, at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This is why Wikimedia Deutschland and the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group are committed to increasing transparency around WIPO negotiations on international copyright law, and shaping WIPO-level policy outcomes. This blog post is the prelude to an introductory series into the topic.

WIPO: What it is and why it matters

Intellectual property law is often considered an arcane matter, which is best left to lawyers. However, intellectual property law in general and copyright in particular have enormous economic and social implications, as they govern access to knowledge. Copyright specifically determines under what conditions creative works, such as textbooks and other educational materials as well as large portions of the world’s cultural heritage, can be accessed and used. This also applies to how users may incorporate sources and illustrations on Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata, etc.

Read More »What happens in Geneva shouldn’t stay in Geneva: Wikimedia and international copyright negotiations