Upholding intellectual property laws in the information age, while also maintaining openness, and preserving commerce requires specific policy initiatives.

The Internet is designed to inspire the free flow of ideas and concepts and open collaboration.. It was built to foster research and innovation with participation of the global community. Unfortunately, community members abuse that freedom, create an extensive array of copyright, trademark and patent infringement issues that are not easy to resolve. While we debate how to reconcile existing intellectual property laws with the realities of online interaction, one thing remains the same: creators of content want to protect and benefit from their creations.

Konstantinos Komaitis, a Geneva-based policy advisor to the Internet Society, sums up the debate as follows: “The question for all of us is how to structure an intellectual property framework for the Internet age—one that respects the needs of creators, is consistent with the global nature of the Internet, and is inclusive of a broader range of stakeholders.”

In June 2013, the Internet Society published a set of best practices for intellectual property discussions on a national, regional and international level. In summary, the paper sets forth the following propositions:

Intellectual Property and Multistakeholder Governance: All discussions about intellectual property in the Internet should be conducted under a multistakeholder framework.

Intellectual Property and Transparency: the need for transparency is reflected both in the WSIS Principles as well as in the Open Standards Paradigm. The Internet Society believes that transparency principles need to be further reflected in agreements like the Anti- Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the Canada-Europe Comprehensive Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Intellectual Property and the Rule of Law: Intellectual property should be based on principles such as due process, equality of rights, fairness, transparency, the right to be heard and legal certainty.

Intellectual Property and Internet Architecture: The Internet Society has long recognized that the infringement of intellectual property rights is a critical issue that needs to be addressed, but, at the same time, it must be addressed in ways that do not undermine the global architecture of the Internet or curtail internationally recognized rights.

Innovation Without Permission: All intellectual property laws and policies should bear in mind the Modern Paradigm for Standards Development, shaped by adherence to the following principles: cooperation; adherence to principles including due process, consensus, transparency, balance and openness; collective empowerment; availability; and, voluntary adoption.

Openness is critical for creativity and intellectual property. Komaitis refers to Spotify, iTunes, Pandora and Netflix as examples of open standards fostering the success of entirely new business models. Without open Internet standards, users would have limited access to content and traditional business models would not be able to share their vast libraries of content in a streamlined and user-friendly way.

Komaitis asserts that global acceptance (both of the Internet’s design and the openness of its standards) and transparency are necessary to incorporate open standards in the intellectual property discussion. The Internet Society recognizes that articulating laws that take into consideration technology-driven societal changes and also craft policy that embrace the innovator of the future is a challenge.

“We are optimistic because we believe that open standards, innovation and intellectual property can complement each other in ways that allow the Internet to act as a facilitator and be seen as a friendly place for content creation,” Komaitis said. “We are hopeful that the release of this paper brings the community closer to a stage where we can truly engage in a multistakeholder dialogue about intellectual property protections in the Internet age.”

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