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How does global patent policy impact the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, and why is that relevant to the real threat of other worldwide pandemics? What is the link between intellectual property law, environmental biodiversity and climate change? Is copyright constraining access to learning materials and education, and if so, who is affected, where, how and why? Are Western-style copyrights, patents and trade-marks appropriate to protect the traditional knowledge and cultures of indigenous peoples throughout the world? How is international intellectual property policy affecting the use of the internet and mobile communication networks as mediums for cultural transformation and more participatory system of democracy? Does the increasing concentration of patents over plants' genetic resources threaten the livelihoods of subsistence farmers, or even global food security more generally? This course on Global Intellectual Property Policy tackles all of those questions, and more, through the lens of social justice: "access to knowledge," or A2K as some say.

 Global IP Policy

Logistics: Classes, Readings, Assignments, etc.

Details, details, details. Here's what you need to know. Global IP Policy & Social Justice is a seminar offered at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law. Because this is a first-year course, none of you will have taken a course in either intellectual property or international law. No problem: this is a course about policy, not legal technicalities. You're going to pick up what you need to know as we go along. Read the rest of this post to learn exactly how that will happen. As you can see, the course is broken down into thematic modules, with an introduction to global governance at the beginning and a wrap-up on the future of IP and development at the end. In between there are 7 lessons: copyright, culture & expression; unlocking learning materials; patents & population health; ag-biotech & food security; IP & the environment; protecting traditional knowledge; and communications technologies. Because invited speakers and extracurricular events are a key part of the class, the order of these lessons might change, but you'll be sure to get plenty of notice if they do. I've made an ideological commitment to selecting only open-access learning materials for this course, which are online, freely available and for free. That's what a2k is all about. All you need is internet access, and you'll be able to follow the links to assigned readings and related materials compiled under every lesson on this page. It is much better if you're able to do all of the readings for a particular lesson in advance of the first class meeting on that lesson, but I understand if time constraints require you to spread some of the readings over the lesson's two classes. Some of the readings are rather straightforward, but some are complex. That's unavoidable when dealing with international legal instruments, public policy documents and critical scholarly literature. Just bear in mind that I want you to focus on the big picture. If you don't fully follow the logic of an academic's argument, don't stress about it. If you get the sense you're entering a thicket of jargon in an international treaty, simply move on to the next section. That doesn't mean you can just skim all of the readings. I'm merely saying that sometimes you'll need to use your judgment to figure out when you've got enough of a flavour for the key issues to be able to intelligently contribute to class discussion. Remember, you're not going to be examined on the nuances of any particular assigned reading. You will be graded, rather, on 4 things: 1. Proposing orienting questions (4 x 5 = 20%); 2. Offering online responses (2 x 20 = 40%); 3. Engaging in class discussions (10 x 1 = 10%); and 4. Reviewing a key book in the field (1 = 30%). 1. Proposing orienting questions (4 questions x 5 marks = 20%) One of your assignments for the course will be to propose 4 orienting questions to guide us through the materials and discussion for the particular week. An orienting question is intended to open discussion about a controversial, interesting, or unclear aspect of the materials. It can be used to steer the conversation down a particular path, or to introduce an opinion, idea, or argument. It might begin with some brief background or context on the issue or source that piqued your interest, followed by a query or perhaps a proposition for comment. It could range from 50-150 words, though I'm far more interested in substance than form, and quality over quantity. Obviously, you can't prepare an orienting question without having completed the weekly reading assignment, so this aspect of the course evaluation is designed to measure the extent of your preparation and engagement in with the course topics and materials. Moreover, the degree to which your orienting questions provoke responsive engagement with your peers, as explained below, will likely be a measure of their quality. Your orienting question for the particular week's topic is due before midnight on 4 of the following 8 dates: Sunday, February 7, 2010 Sunday, February 21, 2010 Sunday, February 28, 2010 Sunday, March 7, 2010 Sunday, March 14, 2010 Sunday, March 21, 2010 Sunday, March 28, 2010 Sunday, April 4, 2010 I haven't assigned specific weeks to specific students. You can choose which 4 of the possible 8 weeks to prepare a question for. I'm hoping that there'll be roughly even distribution of time and interest, so that at least some of the 25 of you registered in the class will post a question for each lesson. Of course, you can post questions for more than 4 lessons, if you choose to do so, but you can only receive marks for up to 4 orienting questions (your best 4 will count). You will notice that there are lesson-specific threads in the class discussion forum; that's where I want you to post the questions. Each Monday, I'll begin the week by highlighting what I think are the best orienting questions to launch our class discussions, and steer us through the lesson. Before we convene on Mondays at 3:00, I expect everyone in the class to have browsed through your peers' orienting questions, and to be prepared to discuss them. 2. Offering online responses (2 responses x 20 marks = 40%) The orienting questions will anchor not only our in-class discussions, but also our online engagement with each other. 40% of your grade will be based upon your responses to 2 orienting questions posed by other students throughout the course. It is entirely up to you to choose which 2 lesson topics, and also which one of your classmates' questions about that lesson, you wish to respond to. Responses should be roughly 1000 words. They should be an intelligent, substantive, engagement with the orienting question and the course materials. A response can be: a well-argued opinion, a comparison with other materials in this course or another; a critique; a suggestion for social or legal reform. It can include: relevant references to current events, history, politics, art, media, or personal experience. A response cannot be: a description or a summary of the materials or class discussion. Because you have only a few words in which to convey your thoughts on important topics and complex issues, I strongly advise you to focus your responses. The more specific the issue you address, and the more tightly and precisely you address that issue, the better your response will be. Broad, generic commentaries tend to bland and unconvincing, so think carefully about how you can hone your perspective on a specific aspect of the topic you're addressing. One response is due before midnight on each of the following dates: Sunday, February 28, 2010 Wednesday, March 31, 2010 You can offer your response to an orienting question by posting it online in the discussion forum. 3. Engaging in class discussions (10%) Everyone is expected to participate in class discussion. The focus will be on both the quality and quantity of contributions, which cumulatively will constitute 10% of your final grade. To make expectations clear from the outset, this is how your participation will be graded: (A, 8-10 marks) Outstanding Contributor: Contributions reflect exceptional preparation. Ideas offered are always substantive, provide one or more major insights as well as direction for the class. Challenges are well substantiated and persuasively presented. If this person were not a member of the class, the quality of discussion would be diminished markedly. (B, 7-8 marks) Good Contributor: Contributions reflect thorough preparation. Ideas offered are usually substantive, provide good insights and sometimes direction for the class. Challenges are well substantiated and often persuasive. If this person were not a member of the class, the quality of discussion would be diminished. (C, 6-7 marks) Adequate Contributor: Contributions reflect satisfactory preparation. Ideas offered are sometimes substantive, provide generally useful insights but seldom offer a new direction for the discussion. Challenges are sometimes presented, fairly well substantiated, and are sometimes persuasive. If this person were not a member of the class, the quality of discussion would be diminished somewhat. (D, 5-6 marks) Non-Participant: This person contributes little or nothing. Hence, there is not an adequate basis for evaluation. If this person were not a member of the class, the quality of discussion would not be changed. (F, 0-5 marks) Unsatisfactory Contributor: Contributions reflect inadequate preparation. Ideas offered are seldom substantive, provide few if any insights and never a constructive direction for the class. Integrative comments and effective challenges are absent. If this person were not a member of the class, valuable air-time would be saved. Another way to think of your participation grade is to break it down over the 10 weeks of term. If you don't want to be surprised about your grade at the end of term, self-evaluate yourself with a score between 1-10 for participation after each week of classes. Multiply that by about 10 weeks, and you'll probably have a ballpark idea where you stand. If in doubt, ask me how I think you're doing and I'll give you some honest feedback on your participation anytime. 4. Reviewing a key book in the field (30%) Your final deliverable for the course is a review of a leading scholarly contribution to knowledge in this field. I've compiled a list of some suggestions you might consider reviewing, including: Boyle, James. 2008. The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. Yale University Press. Boldrin, Michele and David K. Levine. 2008. Against Intellectual Monopoly. Cambridge University Press. Drahos, Peter and John Braithwaite. 2002. Information Feudalism. Earthscan. Deere, Carolyn. 2008. The TRIPS Agreement and the Global Politics of Intellectual Property Reform in Developing Countries. Oxford University Press. Fink, Carsten and Keith Maskus, eds. 2005. Intellectual Property and Development: Lessons from Recent Economic Research. World Bank and Oxford University Press. Finger, J. Michael and Philip Schuler, eds. 2004. Poor People's Knowledge: Promoting Intellectual Property in Developing Countries. World Bank and Oxford University Press. Gervais, Daniel, ed. 2007. Intellectual Property, Trade and Development: Strategies to Optimize Economic Development in a TRIPS Plus Era. Oxford University Press. Maskus, Keith and Jerome Reichman. 2005. International Public Goods and Transfer of Technology Under a Globalized Intellectual Property Regime. Cambridge University Press. May, Christopher. 2009. The Global Political Economy of Intellectual Property Rights, 2nd ed., Routledge. Patry, William. 2009. Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. Oxford University Press. Sell, Susan. 2003. Private Power, Public Law: The Globalization of Intellectual Property Rights. Cambridge University Press. Tansey, Geoff and Tasmin Rajotte, eds. 2008. The Future Control of Food: A Guide to International Negotiations and Rules on Intellectual Property, Biodiversity and Food Security. Earthscan and International Development Research Centre. t Hoen, Ellen. 2009. The Global Politics of Pharmaceutical Monopoly Power, AMB Publishers. The links provided will take sometimes take you to the book publisher's page, or to an open access source, if available. I'd personally prefer to read an entire book in its published format, rather than online or as a PDF, so would order from Amazon or another online retailer. I've also requested that all of these books be ordered for the law library's reserve collection, but I wouldn't wait for the library if I were you. Its probably safest just to choose a book, buy it and begin reading. I'm asking you to do a book review, not a book report. That means the review must contain your personal perspectives and opinions on what you've read, ideally placed in the context of the other materials we've covered and discussions we've had in the course. Even better, you might apply the book's insights to some of the contemporary stories and issues highlighted by the global IP media. Somewhere between 2000-3000 words is a good guideline in terms of length. The due date for the book review is the end of the exam period: Friday, April 30, 2010. I'd like you to submit a hard copy to the Secretariat, which I believe closes at 4:00 pm on that day. To be safe, I'd submit by noon if I were you.

Global Governance Structures

Before we can understand how intellectual property policies impact people's lives worldwide, we need to appreciate the global governance structures through which these laws and policies are formulated.


Copyright, Culture & Expression

Cultural participation is an internationally recognized human right. But there is ambiguity in its meaning and scope. One of the most challenging dilemmas is to reconcile the rights to cultural participation and copyright protection, which can often be at odds.


Education & the "Enforcement" Agenda


Achieve universal primary education. That's one of the Millennium Development Goals we've got to reach by 2015. Universal education requires, of course, universal access to learning materials. While copyright protection can be an incentive to create and disseminate learning materials like educational textbooks or online resources, it can also lead to a lock-down of such materials, especially by promoting the use of so-called technological protection measures. Currently in many countries, access to learning materials is obtained through widespread, systemic copyright infringement. Rights-holders realize this, so have put IP enforcement squarely on the international policymaking agenda, including most notably in the context of ACTA. In this lesson, we'll study the impact that enforcing copyright laws, policies and practices can have on access to learning materials. We'll crystallize our discussion by looking at the African Copyright and Access to Knowledge Project, which is promoting a just society through action-oriented research on this issue in eight different countries throughout Africa.



Patents & Population Health


Probably the most publicly-discussed example of how IP may have adverse social impacts is the possibility of patents to restrict access to pharmaceuticals, especially medicines used to treat HIV/AIDS. Indeed, when it became apparent that patents might be making drugs more expensive and less accessible, widespread public outcry led to political action and reformation of parts of the global IP system. The success or failure of those reforms will be the focus of our lesson on patents and public health. We'll talk about social justice by critically evaluating Canada's response to global health crises -- the Canadian Access to Medicines Regime -- and the recent shipment of generic antiretroviral pills to Rwanda.



Agbiotech & Food Security


Agricultural biotechnologies have the potential to make people's lives better. Crops can be genetically modified to enhance yield or drought-resistance or even nutritional value. But there's enormous controversy over the economic, environmental, ethical, legal and social issues triggered by these technologies. How, if at all, should they be regulated? Our focus in this lesson will be on agbiotech patents. What rights do transgenic plant patent owners have, and what is the impact of plant patents on farmers' rights and the future of subsistence agriculture? These are important questions of social justice that we as a class will explore.



IP & the Environment


A healthy, sustainable environment is a prerequisite to any kind of human flourishing, though we don't always behave like that's the case. In this lesson, we'll look at how environmental issues like the preservation of biodiversity or the prevention of climate change are influenced by global IP policies. The links between IP and the environment may not seem immediately obvious, but they exist. We'll talk, for example, about how patents can facilitate or restrict the transfer of ecologically friendly technologies to developing countries. We'll also evaluate strategies to deal with environmental damages caused by living modified organisms (LMOs). Toward the end of the lesson, we'll begin to explore the issue of biopiracy of genetic resources, and examine access and benefit sharing mechanisms to ensure equitable treatment of the communities from which those resources come.



Protecting Traditional Knowledge


Not all knowledge worth protecting is "new." Many of the world's indigenous peoples have passed on traditional practices, folklore and other forms of knowledge from generation to generation since time immemorial. Almost everyone agrees that this knowledge deserves some form of protection, but it is proving difficult to reach consensus on the details, let alone implement a workable system worldwide. This lesson will gives us an opportunity to review some of the international initiatives seeking to achieve social justice for indigenous communities.