Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Read 'em and WIPO

It is well known that the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is closely tied to the World Trade Organization (WTO). In fact, they have a special "agreement" called the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The very agreement that - in developing Africa - blocked monetary donations toward cheap, generic AIDS-related drugs in favor of expensive, intellectually proprietary (aka "patented") drugs.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had "given" millions to Africans suffering with AIDS - but, with strings attached. The very drugs Africans could purchase using the "generosity" of Bill's money were exclusively patented ones - thanks to agreements bound to TRIPS. Some have plausibly claimed that -
"If Gates' fake philanthropy eviscerates the movement to free Africans from the tyranny of TRIPS, then Bill and Melinda's donations could have the effect of killing more Africans than even their PR agents have claimed they have saved"
Although the strict nature of TRIPS apparently improved after this fiasco, one still wonders how the UN may avoid future embarrassments when contradictory statements concerning the WTO and the WIPO are still being uttered. On the 11th of March, Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi of the WTO said -
"Surely, one of the most important achievements of the last 10 years has been the enhanced integration of developing countries into the WTO system."
So the question is, Mr. Panitchpakdi - How do you reconcile the "enhanced integration of developing countries into the WTO system" with the following data..?

With the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on improving conditions in developing nations outnumbered 7 to 1, the agendas of developed nations will be given a disproportionately stronger voice. When it comes to the fate of "Intellectual Property", it will be the developing world - the world that needs freedom from the global IP regime perpetuated by the megacorporations - that pays the "tax-for-profit" on everything from generic drugs to artisitic culture to software. If laws are passed that continue to favor the notion of "software patents" - patents that our friendly Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has already threatened much of Asia with - those nations using free and open source software will come under fire from the WTO/WIPO agreements. In warning Asian governments and business, Mr. Ballmer was quite clear when stating -
"Someday, for all countries that are entering the WTO, somebody will come and look for money owing to the rights for that intellectual property"
Is this what is known as "enhanced integration of developing countries" Mr. Panitchpakdi?

More news from the EFF concerning this matter can be found here.

Please take the time to consider what a disproportionate voice favoring the "IP Believers" means for the global picture and if you agree there are fundamental issues that need attention, you can sign a petition here.