Some Highlights of Yale’s A2K Conference

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Our colleagues and friends from the Information Society Project at Yale Law School have organized a landmark conference on Access to Knowledge, taking place this weekend at Yale Law School, that brings together leading thinkers and activists on A2K policy from North and South and is aimed at generating concrete research agendas and policy solutions for the next decade. The impressive program with close to 20 plenary sessions and workshops, respectively, is available here. Also check the resources page and the conference wiki (with session notes.)

Here are some of Friday’s and yesterday’s conference highlights in newsflash-format:

  • Jack Blakin’s framework outlining core themes of the A2K discourse. The three main elements of a theory of A2K: (1) A2K is a demand of justice; (2) A2K is an issue of economic development as well as an issue of individual participation and human liberty; (3) A2K is about IP, but it is also about far more than that. Balkin’s speech is posted here.
  • Joel Mokyr’s lecture on three core questions of A2K: (a) Access to what kind of knowledge (propositional vs. prescriptive)? (b) Access by how many users? Direct or indirect access? (question of access intermediaries and the control of their quality) (c) Access at what costs? (Does a piece of knowledge that I need exist? If yes, where; who has it? How to get it? Verification of its trustworthiness.)
  • Yochai Benkler’s fast-paced presentation on the idea of A2K as a response to 4 long-term trends (decolonization->increased integration; rapid industrialization->information knowledge economy; mass media monopolies->networked society; communism and other –isms->human dignity), the reasons why we should care about it (justice and freedom), the sources of the A2K movement as a response to the 4-long term trends (incl. access to medicine, internet freedo movement, information commons, FOSS, human genome project, spectrum commons, open access publications, digital libraries, … ), and the current moment of opportunity in areas such as regulation of information production and telecommunication policy.
  • Eric von Hippel’s discussion of norm-based IP systems and a recent study on cultural norms shared among Michelin-starred French chefs that regulate – as a substitute to copyright law – how they protect ownership of their recipes.
  • Keith Maskus’ lecture on the interplay between trade liberalization and increased IP protection of technologies and an overview of econometric studies regarding key IPR claims in this zone (transparent and enforceable IP regimes do seem to encourage increase in IT investments and associated export growth, both at the aggregate and micro-level; however, claim is conditioned, i.e., holds in middle-income countries, but no evidence for low income developing countries).
  • Eli Noam’s talk on the evolution of firms from the pre-industrial age to today’s digitally networked environment, in which organizations are increasingly defined by information. More on the MacLuhanization of the firm here.
  • Suzanne Scotchmer’s presentation on the design of incentive systems to manage possible conflicts among incentive goals such as the promotion of R&D, the promotion of its use, and trade policy goals. Scotchmer’s lecture was based on her book Innovation and Incentives.
  • Michael Geist’s overview of the current controversies surrounding the idea of a two-tiered Internet – hot topics, among others,: VoiP, content control, traffic shaping, public vs. private internet, and website premium – and his discussion of the core policy questions (is legal protection from Internet tiering required? Is tiering needed for network building and management? Is it a North-South issue?)
  • Susan Crawford’s discussion of the different perspectives of the Bellheads versus the Netheads and the clash of these world views in the Net neutrality debate. Susan’s key arguments are further discussed in this paper.
  • Pam Samuelson’s lecture on the history of the WIPO Internet Treaties, the battles surrounding the DMCA and the EUCD, the fight against database protection in the U.S., and the lesson we can learn form these earlier tussles with regard to the A2K movement (first of all, don’t be polemic –engage in thorough research.) [Update: excellent notes of Pam's lecture taken by Susan Crawford.]
  • Jamie Love’s action points for the A2K movement, including the following (see here): (1) Stop, resist or modify the setting of bad norms; (2) change, regulate, and resist bad business practices; (3) create new modes of production (commercial and non-commercial) of knowledge goods; (4) create global frameworks and norms that promote A2K.
  • Natali Helberger’s discussion of the proposed French provision on interoperability (Art. 7 of the IP Act) as an expression of cultural policy and national interests.

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