As a specialized branch of the United Nations judiciary, the views of the World Intellectual Property Organization are, at a cursory glance, difficult to determine due to the different perspectives maintained by UN member nations regarding intellectual property itself. One consistent means this is done is by repressing the development of legislature that conform to WIPO-administered treaties. (Newman, 2003) Another is by simply cutting off the WIPO’s ability to hold a dialogue on those issues within its goals.
In the case of one debacle in which a WIPO meeting regarding open and collaborative projects was cancelled by the United States, the director for international relations at the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office “explained that “open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights […] To hold a meeting which has as its purpose to disclaim or waive such rights seems to us to be contrary to the goals of WIPO. ” (Lessig, 2004) In effect, the American view of IP stymied the independent authority of the WIPO itself.
As such, the popular interpretation of intellectual property is that of a broadly maximized definition of the term, best represented by the well-worn phrase, “All Rights Reserved. ” But in reality, the WIPO’s views are a bit more complicated than that, as reflected by the numerous treaties they administer. While some developed countries view intellectual property as an entirely economic construct designed to maximize the profit range of new ideas, the Berne Convention recognizes the importance of authorial rights, and made copyright automatic, rather than something that lies exclusively with those who register formally.
However, the most controversial conception of IP framework that is upheld by the WIPO is the World Intellectual Property Copyright Treaty, which stipulates that computer programs are to be protected as literary works, and gives primacy to authors the control over the rental and distribution of their works. Furthermore, it adopts a zero tolerance policy towards the circumvention of technology-based protection schemes and the modification of rights management information.
In effect, the WIPO Treaty maximizes the extent to which protection and rights are upheld, without regard for notions of fair use, the nature of creativity and the private interests of authors. Enter Creative Commons. Proponents of Creative Commons such as Lawrence Lessig maintain that in times past, intellectual property laws were designed to ensure that artists and innovators were able to profit from their creations, but were consistently enforced in a manner that ensured that they would not restrict creativity and stifle progress.
Creative Commons is effectively about recognizing that copyright and intellectual property as defined by law have ceased being malleable enough to recognize the changing needs of the world, not because these laws are invalid but because they apply a broad and maximal view of copyright that says “All rights reserved,” rather than allowing authors to make only “some rights reserved” voluntarily. Simply put, Creative Commons does not promote the abolition of intellectual property so much as it wants flexible control over the value of intellectual property to lie in the hands of authors.
Their primary means of leveraging this copyright reform is through a series of licenses designed to allow artists and creators to dictate the terms by which their works can be used, attempts to expand the freedoms of creative works on top of existing copyright law. By applying these licenses to their works, creators can grant freedoms that ordinary copyright law does not allow because of its presumption that ‘one copyright fits all. ’ Creative Commons is in no way a compromise for the existing dilemma in intellectual property.
It is a solution that attempts to truly liberate creative works by allowing communities to decide how knowledge is used by forging contracts between creators and consumers, but without abnegating the right of creators to derive value from their works.
Newman, M. (2003, April 28). “So Many Countries, So Many Laws. ” The Wall Street Journal. Lessig, L. (2004) Free Culture: How Big Media Uses the Law and Technology to Lock Down Culture and Creativity. Penguin Press: New York.