Monday, August 01, 2005

UNESCO, International Law and Internet Governance

The UN Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) has completed its Report for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

UNESCO in turn has issued a Position Statement on Internet Governance. The preamble to that Statement reads:

The Internet is a major opportunity to improve free flow of information and ideas throughout the world. Internet governance mechanisms should be based on the principle of “openness”, encompassing interoperability, freedom of expression in Knowledge Societies and measures to resist any attempt to censor content. There should be no changes in Internet governance mechanisms that impede the free flow of information and ideas on the Internet. The effect of these mechanisms should be to enable greater use of the Internet by citizens with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

The WGIG report makes a number of recommendations to address Internet-related issues. Among these are three that I believe to be of special relevance to UNESCO:

23. Intellectual property rights (IPR)

Application of intellectual property rights to cyberspace.

• While there is agreement on the need for balance between the rights of holders and the rights of users, there are different views on the precise nature of the balance that will be most beneficial to all stakeholders, and whether the current IPR system is adequate to address the new issues posed by cyberspace. On the one hand, intellectual property rights holders are concerned about the high number of infringements, such as digital piracy, and the technologies developed to circumvent protective measures to prevent such infringements; on the other hand, users are concerned about market oligopolies, the impediments to access and use of digital content and the perceived unbalanced nature of current IPR rules.

81. Freedom of expression

• Ensure that all measures taken in relation to the Internet, in particular those on grounds of security or to fight crime, do not lead to violations of human rights principles.

85. Multilingualism

(a) Domain names:

• Ensuring bottom-up and inclusive development of a transparent policy for the introduction of multilingual domain names.

• Strengthening the participation and coordination of all Governments and all stakeholders in the governance process. This is required to push forward the development and implementation of multilingual domain name solutions, including multilingual e-mail addresses and key word lookup.

• Strengthening cooperation between IETF and IDN registries,[15] thus creating a sound international environment for the further development of technical standards and action plan for global deployment.

(b) Content:

• More effort should be put into developing content development tools to facilitate the creation of multilingual content.

• Governments, the private sector and civil society are encouraged to promote and create more content in local languages to be posted on the Internet.

Intellectual Property Rights

UNESCO has a lead role among UN agencies in the field of copyrights, and would seem to be a logical entity to take an expanded role in copyright aspects of Internet governance.

UNESCO’s set of copyright tools includes its Network of Copyright Chairs in universities in a number of developing countries and countries in transition, UNESCO publications, including the e-Copyright Bulletin, now in five languages, the Collection of national copyright laws, the studies of copyright issues carried out in the framework of the administration of the Universal Copyright Convention and the Guide to the Collective Administration of Authors’ Rights, a useful tool for the development of collecting societies.

A number of Conventions administered by UNESCO set the current international legal framework for copyright issues:
- Multilateral Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation of Copyright Royalties, with model bilateral agreement and additional Protocol.
Madrid, 13 December 1979
- Convention relating to the Distribution of Programme-Carrying Signals Transmitted by Satellite
Brussels, 21 May 1974
- Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms against Unauthorized Duplication of their Phonograms
Geneva, 29 October 1971
- Universal Copyright Convention as revised at Paris on 24 July 1971, with Appendix Declaration relating to Article XVII and Resolution concerning Article XI
Paris, 24 July 1971
- International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations
Rome, 26 October 1961
- Convention concerning the Exchange of Official Publications and Government Documents between States
Paris, 3 December 1958
- Convention concerning the International Exchange of Publications
Paris, 3 December 1958
- Universal Copyright Convention, with Appendix Declaration relating to Articles XVII and Resolution concerning Article XI
Geneva, 6 September 1952
- Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials, with Annexes A to E and Protocol annexed
Florence, 17 June 1950
- Agreement For Facilitating the International Circulation of Visual and Auditory Materials of an Educational, Scientific and Cultural character with Protocol of Signature and model form of certificate provided for in Article IV of the above-mentioned Agreement
Beirut, 10 December 1948

Within the framework of the Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity, UNESCO is working on the theme of Copyright, Piracy and Cultural Industries, and is currently developing new initiatives and projects in order to fight against piracy.

Freedom of Expression and UNESCO

UNESCO has a long standing program on Freedom of Expression. Indeed, UNESCO held a conference on Freedom of Expression in Cyberspace in 2002, in its headquarters, as part of the preparation for WSIS. The report of that meeting is now online.

Important international understandings form the basis for this program. Article 19 of the Univesal Declaration of Human Rights states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The Constitution of UNESCO also designates its functions with regard to Freedom of Expression. UNESCO's first given purpose is:

Collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image.

The UNESCO website affirms that "Since the adoption of the New Communication Strategy by the General Conference in 1989, UNESCO has contributed to a wider recognition and public awareness of the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of information as a fundamental human right......The Organization has also continuously provided assistance to media organizations in setting up legal statutes to ensure independent flow of information, editorial independence, financial autonomy and safety of media professionals."

Multilingualism and UNESCO

UNESCO held two meetings directly pertinent to this topic in preparation for WSIS:

- Multilingualism for Cultural Diversity and Participation of All in Cyberspace(6-7 May 2005, Bamako, Mali)

- Cultural Diversity in Knowledge Societies
(17-19 May 2005, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation)

The reports of these meetings are available online.

The concern for multilingualism relates to UNESCO's larger interest in Cultural Diversity, as expressed in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. UNESCO is currently working towards a Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions.

UNESCO also is responsible for international cultural conventions that help establish an international legal framework for some of the broader aspects of Internet governance including multilingualism and endangered languages:
- Convention For the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage
Paris, 17 October 2003
- Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property
Paris, 14 November 1970

UNESCO, Participation and Capacity Building

The WGIG report also calls for efforts to promote "meaningful participation in global policy development" by and "capacity-building" for developing nations. UNESCO is well placed to assist in these efforts. This is especially true since the United States representative presented a draft decision for the Creation of a Cross-Sectoral Program in Technical Capacity Building which was accepted by the last meeting of UNESCO's Executive Board, and is likely to be accepted by UNESCO's General Conference later this year. Capacity building for Internet governance, as well as for the larger issues in entry into the Information Society might well form an important part of this new initiative.

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