Trade, Access to Knowledge, and Digital Rights

Pranesh Prakash

Centre for Internet and Society

Affiliated Fellow
Information Society Project, Yale Law School

Public Interest Technology Fellow

New America


CC-BY-SA 4.0: (copy, share, adapt: sharing is caring)

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Intellectual "Property"

Patents, Trademark, Copyright, Trade Secrets, Industrial Design, Integrated Circuit Layout, Biodiversity, Plant Variety, Geographical Indicators, etc.:
Not "Property".

Government-granted limited monopolies.

Access to Knowledge and International Trade

Access to Knowledge and Development

WTO and A2K

Agreement on "Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights", 1994.

Set a very high floor for IP protection


Statement by Debabrata Saha, Deputy Permanent Representative of India

October 1, 2004


"[W]ith all the damage that TRIPS has wrought on developing countries could it possibly have a silver lining? Maybe — if we want to be generous. TRIPS, one might argue, did bring intellectual property to the forefront of consciousness of people everywhere, and, over time made them aware of the dangers inherent in a protective regime that takes little account of either public policy, or the state of development of a member country."





Bargain meant to push for "transfer of technology".

But no such transfers.
(China is the exception.)

Plurilateral Trade Agreements

  • Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

  • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

    • ASEAN+
    • Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and NZ
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership

  • (CPA) Trans-Pacific Partnership

    • Dropped 22 provisions in IP chapter.
      No TPM/DRM, Signal encryption, Life+70, etc.


All of these are "TRIPS+" and "TRIPS++".
Harms developing countries most.

Plurilateral Trade Agreements

No Transparency


Only leaked IP chapter from 2015.

Only government and private sector

No academics, no civil society

Digital Rights

Should using images/video in a presentation (with acknowledgment) be illegal?

Should playing YouTube video during a break be illegal?

Should students photocopying some pages from a text book be illegal?

Should search engines be illegal?

Digital Rights

Are user/consumer rights part of international trade?


But no provisions in any trade agreement.

No export of exceptions, limitations, "fair use" standards.

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