Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ACTA A Sign Of Weakness In Multilateral System, WIPO Head Says; Intellectual Property Watch, 6/30/10

Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch; ACTA A Sign Of Weakness In Multilateral System, WIPO Head Says:

"The plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and other such regional negotiations are a “bad development” for multilateral agencies, the World Intellectual Property Organization director general has told Intellectual Property Watch.

Asked about this week’s ACTA negotiation in Lucerne, Switzerland (IPW, Enforcement, 26 June 2010), Gurry said it is an example of the difficulty of the United Nations and the rest of the multilateral system have providing swift answers to international problems.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry told UN journalists on 29 June that the inability to provide answers could lead to member states taking matters into their own hands to seek solutions outside of the multilateral system to the detriment of inclusiveness of the present system.

There is an increasing number of issues that can only be addressed internationally, which is bringing a challenge to the whole UN system, highlighting its inability to address them, Gurry said. Despite that “surge for international agreements, we are not seeing international agreements flowing out very easily,” he said.

If “you look across the system, in all organisations, you are not seeing agreements being concluded on a daily basis,” even if the speed with which interconnection has intensified would suggest that agreements are needed, he said. But he did not offer clear ideas on how to solve the delays.

“A number of countries feel [there is] an important area of public policy they are not able to address in a multilateral forum, and so have gone outside the multilateral framework to satisfy their desire for creating some form of ‘international’ cooperation,” Gurry told Intellectual Property Watch in an interview last week. “That’s the challenge, for us. And whether it concerns enforcement, ACTA, or any other area, that, on the whole, is a bad development for a multilateral agency, that member states start to do things outside.”

“Either the machinery works, or it doesn’t,” he said. “That I think is the real significance of ACTA.

The frustration it has caused is a consequence of practical issues not being addressed, he said, citing recent difficult discussions in the Standing Committee on Copyrights and Related Rights on increased access for visually impaired persons. “Can anyone not subscribe to that principle, as a general rule?” he asked, with visually impaired readers only obtaining access to about five percent of all published work in reasonable time.

“Can anyone stand up and say that they should not have more [access], that we should not do something about it?” It is such an obvious question, he said “but we are not getting an agreement” although the last meeting showed genuine involvement of member countries.

“This is the frustration that we are all feeling,” he said, and it leads to other ways to reach solutions."

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