Intellectual Property Rights and the Protection of the Public Domain
January 27, 2003 | Press Release | Digital Media & Learning

MacArthur has announced three grants totaling $760,000 made through its special funding initiative on intellectual property and the long-term protection of the public domain.

The initiative focuses on questions of intellectual property rights in the digital era, specifically those that seek to balance the legitimate needs of the creators with those of the public. Through this initiative, the Foundation also supports work designed to protect, over the long term, the public's access to information and ideas.

"The widespread use of digital technologies make it possible for everyone with a computer on his desk to copy and transmit information at almost no cost." said Jonathan Fanton, MacArthur Foundation president. "The technologies also make it possible to block access to important information, including data developed at public expense. This initiative is designed in light of the need for a new set of laws, regulations and practices that appropriately balance the needs of the creator of information for adequate compensation and the needs of the public to have access to that information."

A grant of $450,000 over three years was made to the Washington, DC-based Center for Study of Responsive Law to support its Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech). The grant will help CPTech analyze the intellectual property restrictions being proposed in international trade agreements, such as the Hague Convention and the Free Trade Area for the Americas. Many of these international treaties go on to form the basis of national laws governing intellectual property. It will also support CPTech's work to involve nongovernmental and consumer organizations, including some from developing countries, in these discussions. While business interests are usually well represented at international treaty negotiations, public interest organizations have found it difficult to participate because of costs involved. CPTech will use the grant to encourage broader debate in international deliberations on information technologies and Intellectual property issues.

A grant of $250,000 to the Center for Democracy and Technology will be used to support efforts to promote a balanced debate over the use of technological locks in preventing the copying of digitized content, such as music CDs and DVDs. This work is in response to concerns that as the industry pushes for new technologies to protect digitized content, there has not been enough participation by consumers and users. The Center for Democracy will use the grant to provide consultation and information to both sides of the debate and will test products in an effort to meet the needs of the industry to receive compensation for its products while protecting the consumer's right to fair use of such materials.

A grant of $60,000 was made to the Duke University School of Law to convene a conference of international economists and legal experts to discuss a number of intellectual property issues raised by the World Trade Organization's Trade Related Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights. The conference is intended to generate information useful to evaluating the intellectual property provisions being proposed in international trade negotiations.

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