A2K@IGF Dynamic Coalition
Statement at the Open Consultation of the
UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF)
23 May 2007 – Geneva

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I speak on behalf of the A2K@IGF Dynamic Coalition, who’s purpose is to support and expand Access to Knowledge and promote freedom of expression in the realm of information and communication technology.

Our coalition is particularly concerned with the impact that unbalanced intellectual property rights have on the Internet as a tool of free expression, innovation, education, and development.

A2K@IGF joins in supporting the statement from Brazil and Argentina this morning to focus the openness theme on fundamental rights and open standards, and the diversity theme on knowledge production and sharing.

Additionally, A2K@IGF recommends that IGF consider the following 3 principles in preparation for Rio:

    FIRST.  Build freedom of expression values into the laws and architectures that support online communication.

The Internet was originally designed primarily for communication and educational purposes.

The ability to communicate across the globe without any intermediary’s interference, to seek out desired knowledge, and freely associate with ideas and communities close to one’s heart, are at the core of what makes the Internet such a powerful tool for development.

These specific early infrastructural design choices remain key to the Internet’s contribution as a global resource for knowledge and development.

We can bridge the gap in the digital divide by continuing to design the Internet with these ends in mind, and implement technical protocols and public policy choices that encourage the Internet as a tool of unencumbered free expression and access to knowledge.

If we choose anything other than an “Internet for Development”, we are building a wall that serves to widen the gap between those with a wealth of information at their fingertips and those starved for knowledge.

    SECOND.  IGF can serve to encourage open, innovative, and non-proprietary development models for building knowledge and wealth.

A2K@IGF recognizes the importance of the Internet as an incubator for innovative new business models that may not have been possible in the offline world.

The spread of free and open source software has led to the creation of robust and commercially successful operating systems such as Linux.

And future technologies promise to provide additional non-proprietary solutions at an even more affordable and efficient rate.

These non-traditional innovations promote cultural exchange and diversity, and free-up scarce resources for other more basic needs.

The social and political value of online discussion forums, wikis, web logs and other peer-to-peer (P2P) communication tools are beyond question.

Creative works licensed under a Creative Commons license or other types of “open content”, which permit greater sharing and incorporation into future developments than traditional media outlets allow, have significantly increased the availability of online educational and cultural resources.

IGF presents a unique opportunity to explore the success of these models and encourage their expansion into new areas and communities.

As the power of Internet grows, the essential tools and businesses integrated with public domain resources become increasingly important for fostering innovation and wealth, particularly in undeveloped communities.

Without a shared recognition that the public domain enriches everyone and creates value for society, information policy cannot evolve to address the opportunities the cyberspace presents.

The Internet Governance Forum should address the status of the public domain as it explores how the Internet can be maximized as tool for access to knowledge and as an “Internet for Development”.

It can also provide a platform to raise awareness on the role of the Internet to provide universal access to a robust public domain of knowledge and culture.

The Internet revives the hope of the ancient Library of Alexandria – if managed properly, it will create a global public resource for universal education.

But if managed for the benefit of only a few industries or out-dated business models, we will lose this opportunity to build a strong and robust public domain of shared knowledge.

    THIRD and Finally.  Civil Liberties should be a broadly considered “Cross-Cutting” issue at the 2007 IGF meeting in Rio.

Given the importance that basic human rights such as freedom of expression, education, privacy, communication, scientific inquiry, access to information, freedom of association, and anonymity play in the development of humanity, the civil liberties implications of every topic addressed in Rio should be considered to provide a more complete picture of the policy issues.

Respect for civil liberties should be considered a cross-cutting issue in all of the activities undertaken at Rio, since positive development of the Internet is dependent upon respect for the basic human rights of all individual Internet Users.

There is a growing trend among international human rights courts to specifically recognize access to information as part of the freedom of expression rights enshrined in several human rights conventions.

For example in 2006, both the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that access to information is protected by freedom of expression guarantees; and in Europe that right has been specifically extended to cyberspace.²

In conclusion, A2K@IGF would like to hear from speakers in Rio that will inspire the development of the Internet as a tool for providing access to knowledge and freedom for all citizens, regardless of national boundaries.

Thank you.