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Internet Governance 4 November 2013

Time for action …. Building Bridges to protect creativity (part II)

Konstantinos Komaitis
By Konstantinos KomaitisFormer Senior Director, Policy Strategy and Development

In my last blog entry, I shared some of my hopes for this year’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF); actually, it was only one hope that the IGF will manage to assert itself as the only platform where stakeholders meet to shape future Internet governance discussions. And, not only did this hope come true, but I also felt that the IGF brought back the unparalleled sense of community and unity in safeguarding and preserving the open Internet.

Although the discussions were largely dominated by surveillance and by the press release that the I* community had released just a few days before the IGF, I will focus on those discussions that attempted to address issues of digital content and to access to information. These discussions were not less important and this became very clear very quickly by the people attending them. Policy makers, parliamentarians, the content industry, civil society groups and some actors from the technical community all joined the debate, which, in one of the very few times, saw a very productive dialogue taking place. It really made me believe that there is not only hope for addressing many of the key issues related to digital content, but also that this hope is linked to the IGF and what it can offer.

The main message coming from the intellectual property sessions was that “multistakeholder participation is certainly an added value due to its default and inherent principles of transparency and inclusion.” This was signaled as very important “in the context of copyright were discussions are often marginalized and fragmented”.[1] In a much similar vein, in another workshop it was recognized that “everyone is a creator and, thus, the need to adapt copyright with the Internet is crucial”.[2] Fundamentally, this goal cannot be achieved without a platform that, first and foremost, offers the opportunity for actors to agree and deliberate on advancing this common value.

Most of us would agree though that these messages are not commonplace outside the IGF. Most of the intellectual property discussions continue to be divisive and trapped in an unresponsive debate. At the same time, many of these discussions continue to opt for processes that involve a limited number of actors, fail to operate under transparency and accountability and are, often, characterized by their partisan positions.

So, now it is really up to the community to advance these discussions and make the best of them. It is really up to us to take the ideas, views, opinions and arguments as they were shaped at the IGF, contextualize them and make them part of other more narrow or general discussions. We have to be as assertive and as committed to this as the IGF was in building bridges. For intellectual property and digital content in general, this means that transparency, accountability and inclusiveness should be — by now — invariable principles. At the very minimum, all discussions, including those conducted within Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) should adhere to minimum standards of multistakeholder participation. This does not mean that the model of the IGF should necessarily be emulated in such discussions. But, the principles behind the model and the end goals should.

These end goals relate to the need to preserve and sustain the open and interoperable Internet. This is the second issue we need to take from the IGF and incorporate it other intellectual property policy fora. Experimenting with policies that have a detrimental impact on the nature and design of the Internet is no longer sustainable or viable; we need to depart from this approach since it has been proven that it fails to advance the discussions. On the contrary, it brings them back to when they started and this is counterproductive.

The 2013 IGF proved that constructive collaboration can lead to constructive dialogue. It is time for action and for all of us to really take responsibility in finding mutually agreed solutions that incentivise users to create content, provide a balanced framework for the protection of creativity and help sustain the open Internet.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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