Campaign Aims To Take Back Consumer Rights Over IP-Protected ProductsPublished on 14 September 2010 @ 3:58 pm
By Kaitlin Mara, Intellectual Property Watch
Copyright and patent laws “are often misused” for reasons that have “more to do with limiting competition and preventing consumers from making innovative uses of their products” than they do with stopping piracy, global consumer advocacy group Consumers International plans to tell a UN internet meeting today. Such misuse includes limitations on the use of third-party content on devices such as the iPhone, and regional codes that prevent consumers from playing DVDs bought legally abroad in a consumer’s home country.
The statement comes in the context of a 14-17 September meeting of the UN Internet Governance Forum in Vilnius, Lithuania. The IGF is a “multi-stakeholder dialogue” addressing various matters of public policy relating to the internet. This year’s meeting is intended to focus on internet governance as a tool for development, especially the Millennium Development Goals, according to a press release.
Consumers International is asking for an amendment of the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection [pdf], which was first adopted 25 years ago, the group said in a press release. Jeremy Malcolm, the Consumers International project director for IP and communications, said that IP rights and human rights have “for too long” been framed as having similar status, when misuse of IP interferes with “freedom of expression, education and participation in cultural life.”
IP should be recast as consumer protection issue, he added, saying “this campaign is about consumers taking back their rights to access content and to use devices that they have paid for.”
In parallel, Consumers International recently completed two surveys. One, on copyright access barriers for consumers, found that copyright law was the biggest barrier to consumer access to copyrighted work, but that consumers still preferred original to pirated content when it was affordable. The other involved case studies of countries where consumer-protecting limitations and exceptions to copyright law were either passed or repealed.
Kaitlin Mara may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.