Is Canada Against Access to Knowledge?

Delegates from around the world are meeting in Geneva this week to work on the critically important World Intellectual Property Organization Development Agenda.  The WIPO Development Agenda represents a major effort from developing countries to ensure that global IP policy adopts a broader perspective by better reflecting the needs of countries at different stages of economic development.  From a Canadian perspective, there is an excellent opportunity to forge a leadership position, recognizing that our interests lie with IP policies that embrace flexibility.

Rather than supporting that path, however, reports from Geneva today indicate that Canada has emerged as an embarrassing barrier.  Canadian delegates are working on text that addresses norm-setting, flexibilities, public policy and the public domain.  A contentious paragraph on the future of the development agenda within the draft text is:

To discuss possible new initatives and strengthen existing mechanisms within WIPO to facilitate [access to knowledge] and technology for developing countries and LDCs and to foster creativity and innovation within WIPO's mandate.

Note the square brackets around "access to knowledge", which represents language about which there is no agreement.  It would seem plain that a meaningful development agenda would include discussion of access to knowledge.  Yet, KEI reports that Canada is actively opposting removing the brackets and ensuring that the wording makes its way into the text.  Canadians like to believe that we are leaders in prioritizing development issues around the world, yet here we have Canadian representatives blocking developing world by opposing something as essential as access to knowledge.  Absolutely shameful.

Update: Reports this morning indicate progress with inclusion of the access to knowledge language. A welcome development, though Canada should be leading on these issues, not aligning itself against the developing world. 


  1. Anonymous says:

    Eliot Pence
    New language on A2K:
    It appears the Canadian delegation, for now, has come around.

    [ link ]

  2. Arif Jinha says:

    student and ndp candidate
    The fact is that apart from a handful of Canadian academics (Michael Geist, PKP, maybe a few others), working independently it seems, I know of no significant advocacy on a2k in Canada. We can’t expect Conservatives to be enlightened on this topic, we need to pressure them. It’s time to organize, we should have a petition on public access to public knowledge, and we should have a policy proposal on the table by the time the fall session begins. I’ve written one that I need help with, let’s start a Canadian a2k movement. I am only a candidate, but I can see if I can get relevant legislation at least in the House through NDP private members bill.

    Canadian universities need to step forward, or students and professors have to kickstart them with some action. University of Ottawa, a ‘research-intensive’ university, does not even have an e-repository. It will likely pursue increased student exchange with the developing world in the next years, all of these partnerships will be inherently inequitable and serve to reinforce the brain-drain, unless things like library sharing and open access research are allowed and put in place. We have increasingly popular ‘international development’ programs, but without equitable access, development studies will continue to be half-informed because of the barrier to research production by developing countries, and partnership where knowledge is merely translated from the North to the South, and where students continue to arrive in developing countries and learn about intractable poverty and injustice rather than self-determined development. How long will national universities of countries like Zambia be shut out from global public knowledge? I was recently disgusted by the response to my inquiry to the Canadian Knowledge Research Network as to whether any thought had been given to making their humanities database acquisition accessible. They replied that their mandate was to bring the world’s research to Canada. Bringing wealth to the wealthy. How long will the ‘humanities’ be available to a small portion of humanity? How long will this go on? We have loads of student groups and great professors who speak and advocate on all manner of global issues, and they teach us relexivity and critical thinking. But what is the use of the power of knowledge for action on these issues being vested at home in Canada but not shared? Now it’s time to mobilize the Canadian academic community at the core of what we do.

    end of rant!

    contact:, NDP of LFL&A