From Swords to Ploughshares
Edited by Lateef Mtima
Chapter 7: Intellectual property training and education for social justice
Social justice issues have been present in the intellectual property debate for as long as intellectual property rights have existed. Their longstanding presence is unsurprising considering that intellectual property rights have always been designed with authors, inventors and other rights holders in mind. What is different today, however, is the increased public attention devoted to the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. Although this subject was once considered arcane, obscure, specialized and highly technical, the mass media, consumer advocates, user communities and civil liberty groups have now actively participated in the intellectual property debate. The past decade alone has seen a large and ever-growing number of public protests against the use of intellectual property rights to protect medicines, textbooks, seeds and computer software. Only three years ago, the signing of the secretly-negotiated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets in major European cities in the middle of winter. Across the Atlantic, individuals were equally concerned about the introduction of highly controversial copyright legislation, such as the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). These concerns eventually led to an unprecedented, massive service blackout launched by Wikipedia, Reddit, WordPress and other Internet companies in the run-up to the US presidential election. If social justice issues rarely came up in the intellectual property debate a decade ago, these issues have now been heard loud and clear.
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