Alex Steffen of Worldchanging has posted a great interview with me about WIPO, the copyfight, and international development.
WIPO -- the World Intellectual Property Organization -- is the UN's most captive agency. WIPO was originally a stand-alone organization, essentially an industry consortium for rightsholders' interests, and they got brought in under the umbrella of the UN thirty or so years ago, with the understanding that they would change their practices to make them consistent with other UN instruments like the Universal Declaration on Human Rights -- humanitarian instruments -- and that it would become a humanitarian agency for development.
Which makes sense. Information goods are a critical piece of the development picture. Every successfully developed country made use of free information goods. More accurately, they all went through a stage when they were a pirate nation. America spent a century as a pirate nation, ripping off the intellectual property of every country around it, and in particular, of Britain, because when you're a net importer of intellectual property, signing on to multilateral copyright and patent agreements is signing on to exporting your wealth off-shore. When you're a net exporter of intellectual property, it makes economic sense.
The choice is not simply one of piracy or monopoly. There is a whole rich middle ground of public domain and open information regimes which could give developing world countries the tools they need to serve humanitarian purposes, while protecting the legitimate interests of authors, performers and inventors. WIPO could have created a global knowledge goods regime which protected both the commercial and the humanitarian fairly.
I asked Amy Parness, the co-founder of Sparkle Labs, maker of fantastic educational electronics kits, to write a Medium post about gender and the business of being a maker business person. Her terrific essay calls out the problems with “pink girly engineering kits.” From Medium:
Zero UI is the new term for “invisible interfaces”—what happens in the future when all the clicking and tapping and typing is history: “If you look at the history of computing, starting with the jacquard loom in 1801, humans have always had to interact with machines in a really abstract, complex way.” [Fast Company]
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