The first political victory for open source

Summary:We're finally admitting that copyright absolutism doesn't work. And that's a very important story.

WIPO logo
The WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization, logo at right) Development Agenda is usually a great way to put folks to sleep, but this week it represents what may be the first political victory for open source.

Negotiators in Switzerland have agreed on 24 points nominally aimed at making Intellectual Property issues easier for developing countries to deal with.

In order to get the deal done the U.S. had to back away from a hard line it has taken for more than a decade. It is certain that business interests played a major part in making this happen.

Writes James Love, Chairman of the Union for the Public Domain, "WIPO is finally entering the new century, and responding to the growing demand for reforms, and a more balanced approach to intellectual property protection."

The agreement sets the stage for June negotiations that will consider a proposed treaty on access to knowledge, which Love says would be a radical departure "from WIPO's longstanding efforts to focus largely on expanding the scope and enforcement of intellectual property rights."

Love gives credit all around, but I don't think it would have been possible save for two facts:

  1. Open source has proven a business model exists that lets customers own software.
  2. Apple has shown that in demanding DRM publishers lose control of their own distribution channels.

In other words we weren't being nice to foreigners. We're finally admitting that copyright absolutism doesn't work. And that's a very important story.

Topics: Legal


Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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