OECD Talks Convergence, Creativity, Confidence – Answers Welcome! 01/07/2008 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)By Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch Regulating convergence, finding solutions to foster creativity and answering consumer fears about identity theft, fraud and the invasion of their privacy were central questions at the recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ministerial meeting in Seoul, Korea. The “Future of the Internet Economy” meeting, a follow-up to the OECD Ministerial on E-Commerce held 10 years ago in Ottawa, was preceded by fora of the three stakeholder groups – business, the technical community and civil society – which recognised the rise of the internet economy from basic e-commerce to the very driver of all economies. In keeping with a latest movement, the role of information and communications technology as a tool to fight climate change will be discussed at a conference in Denmark next year following an invitation by the Danish Government, according to OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria. The “Seoul Declaration” [pdf] signed by 39 governments and the European Union on 18 June was announced as a “roadmap for the future of the internet economy,” but contains a lot of questions that still need to be answered. The conference was held on 17-18 June. Governments agreed in the declaration that the challenges they jointly face are universal access to the internet – and more broadband access in particular, promoting innovation, competition and user choice, infrastructure security, data protection in the online world, ensuring respect for intellectual property rights, protection of minors and vulnerable people on the internet, respect for social norms, and an increase of transparency and the creation of a market-friendly environment. Universal access to networks also was mentioned as key by Anriette Esterhuysen of the Association for Progressive Communication (APC). In her closing remarks for civil society, she said, “Without universal broadband access the benefit of the internet will be superficial.” Waiting to bring access for all could cost hundreds of thousands of lives, Esterhuysen said. Net Neutrality For legislators and regulators, convergence of information and communication networks poses one of the big riddles. “Governments recognised” in Seoul, concluded Korean Communication Commission Chairman See Joong Choi, “that legacy policy frameworks are not always appropriate for the internet, and that policymakers should be cautious in how they develop new policy decisions.” The question is, “what governments could do to address the challenge,” wrote See. Industry representatives gathered in the OECD Business Industry Advisory Committee asked for a review of classical telecommunication regulation and possible elimination of “unnecessary regulatory burdens.” On the other hand, there were not a few high-level participants making the case for the necessity of some new regulation with regard to network neutrality. Some had been “starting to question the founding principles of openness and neutrality that have been essential for the development and tremendous innovation power of the internet,” warned EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding. “The discussion on network neutrality,” she said, is not a technical question to be answered by regulatory authorities but a political question to be answered by the people. While there is no need to overplay the net neutrality question, she said, “Our objective as policymakers worldwide should be to prevent powerful interests putting at risk the openness of the internet as a public space and weakening innovation on networks.” Reding was quoted by OECD secretary general in his closing speech, and the core elements of her speech – access over devices, user choice and transparency on quality and costs – were mentioned in the Seoul declaration. The OECD secretariat was given the task of drafting a recommendation on how to formulate policies for converged communication networks. This is one of a dozen tasks set out by the OECD member states. IP and Alternatives A related issue, creativity – and innovation linked to it – was raised as essential and all parties are in favour of nurturing it. “But is also unpredictable and difficult to develop,” Choi stated in his summary. Protection of intellectual property, often claimed to be a major driver of innovation, figures in the Seoul declaration of governments, and, according to Choi, there were debates about “the need to work out how governance of intellectual property will be collectively managed.” But the “Seoul Declaration” also contains avenues to get to a creative society. Policies mentioned are: “to maintain an open environment that supports the free flow of information”; wider access to public sector information and content, including scientific data and cultural heritage; the use of collaborative internet-based models; and social networks for creation or to “combine the combat of digital piracy with innovative approaches which provide creators and rights holders with incentives to create and disseminate works” in a mutually beneficial way. Civil rights groups in their background paper [pdf] to the meeting devoted a big part to the topic of IP. They warned, that “A2K [access to knowledge] and the various public interests, of which it is composed, are seriously hindered by the expansion of the exclusive rights of IP at the expense of public access” and asked member states to curtail private exploitation so that the public interest is not hampered. Facts should not be proprietary, education should be granted exemptions and publicly funded research or art should be available to the public. The NGOs also warned against legislation that would shift liability to intermediaries like network providers and ISPs and obligations for them to filter communication of their users. Mandatory network filtering is not likely to reduce online copyright infringement, but instead would result in invasion of all internet users’ privacy, particularly if it requires deep packet inspection (checking data within internet protocol packets by filtering them as they pass through networks). Privacy and consumer protection was another main point on the agenda of the meeting and discussions resulted in several tasks for the OECD secretariat, namely to assess implementation of the various existing OECD instruments on consumer protection, privacy and security. The OECD also should have a look into the growing importance of digital identities, agreed governments. Push for Multistakeholder Principle Civil society and the technical community, represented by the non-profit Internet Society, drew some positive conclusions from Seoul. The technical community was satisfied, for example, that IPv6, the next generation internet protocol, was added to the official declaration as a to-do item for industry and governments while at the same time governments only announced they would act through early adoption and promotion and not regulation. A certain humility of regulators towards the creativity and self-regulatory power of the internet, as discussed by US law professor Lawrence Lessig, was applauded by representatives from the Reseaux IP Européen (RIPE), the IP registry for Europe and the Middle East, and also taken up by Gurria. Gurria also recommended formalising the participation of civil society and technical communities who had both been very active in the preparation of the Internet Summit. “This is another push for the multi-stakeholder principle,” said Wolfgang Kleinwächter, law professor at the University of Aarhus and an insider of the Internet Governance Forum process that grew from the World Summit on the Information Society. The traditional concept of state sovereignty is not working anymore, he said. Gurria said there were things governments could do well by themselves and other things like the development of the internet or climate change where all stakeholders were needed. But governments chose this time not to include Gurria’s recommendation in the final declaration. Such subjects will be for further meetings, for example the review of the Internet Future Declaration from Seoul in three years from now. Monika Ermert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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