China’s continued and massive IP theft cases both from the US and other holders of IP are an issue of concern. Indeed, America is fighting another Cold War with China on this front. Then only the knowledge economy widely growing through web journalism can be safely used. It’s the need of the hour. It’s a matter of dignity of labour. The creators and innovators who make their work public on online mediums must be respected by paying their dues
Internet has transcended all boundaries of humanity. We have reached the pinnacle of never-ending cycle of change. Sadly, this course of human civilisation is irreversible. It is accepted for all that there is no place to hide. We are living in an “age of public”. Probably the poetical words of award-winning author Thomas Friedman that “World is Flat” have come true to all of us. Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) to Alaska (US), Reykjavik (Iceland) to Santiago (Chile) via Antananarivo (Madagascar) could well be reached in seconds with the help of internet. Thus, at an incredible speed, global has become local and local is fast turning into global. The idea, spirit and feel of glocality is more of ubiquitous today.
Web journalism or online journalism or internet journalism is a definite future of creative expressions today. This is a kind of a platform whereby an individual potentially can have instantaneous and global access to all forms of data. And it is so simple and easy that people can communicate virtually with anyone in any part of the world only through a mobile or a tablet or a computer.
Creativity is considered the most treasured act of human beings. True, we are all fast moving towards a “data nation”. If you have the data or information, you can simply rule the whole world. Now the pertinent question is that how to protect it and offer dues to the innovators. Often largely unnoticed, this month observes two important days to protect International Copyright Day or also known as World Book and Copyright Day on April 23 and World Intellectual Property Day on April 26. The huge network of counterfeiting and piracy of both tangible and intangible goods directly challenges the protection of IPRs world over.
Impending social changes are revolutionary in nature as we are an integral part of the digital revolution. The shift to digital communication and subsequent technological revolutions are fast breaking the barriers between traditional media outlets like newspapers and magazines and also between the broader media and communication networks across the globe.
Cyberspace is mass space. We are into it. And so are the criminal elements. Hence, the global counterfeit goods and services are abundant both in demand and supply. Web networks are being widely used to channelise these commodities and ideas from one corner to the other. It is sheer violation of the global framework of IPRs.
It is a wired-up world. The so-called Information Highway is touching all of us. The very field of web journalism is posing a renewed challenge to the protection of IPRs. What we need today is a regulatory mechanism so as to circumvent all efforts to steal IPRs and use web contents as a means to the welfare of all. The new online media is one wherein equality of opportunity and respect for equal distribution of intellectual resources are involved.
So, to negate all efforts by the criminal syndicates, people can remain ever vigilant. Moreover, public offices especially the law-and-order agencies must clamp down serious charges over the defaulters. It must be said the Information Superhighway does not suggest an orderly roadmap. The impact of new technologies and platforms or mediums often leads to chaotic and disruptive situations around the world. Sadly, the networks created by latest technologies are nowhere under the absolute control of the inventors.
Precisely, long before the advent of the superior technologies, the power and authority of the all-powerful State has started eroding. Mega corporations are literally running the day to day affairs of the modern State. The States have only remained a vehicle to run the giant machines of business wherein they have become a partner. Therefore, how to regulate the big corporations, including tech and knowledge behemoths such as
the Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn have become a vexed question.
At the end, one can rightly say the absolute protection of the IPRs is a misnomer. Whatsoever it may be, the global governance of IPRs, floated both by the WIPO since the 1970s and the historic treaty of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) of 1995 may not be the final guarantor of IPRs in this digital age.
Therefore, the contents released by web journalism would always be susceptible to stealing and violation by unwanted elements.
At the heart of the narrative is how to stop the abuse or unauthorised use of massive contents that flow through global online journalism. Precisely, IPR is an important aspect of the process of globalisation. Globalisation encompasses many things, including the free flow of ideas, wherein digital media plays the most crucial role. And the understanding is clear today that without adequate protection of creative ideas through the global and national IPR governance systems, the international counterfeit conglomerates would simply take away a major chunk of hard work mixed with sheer innovative efforts. It is happening very fast since the explosion of information in the 1990s and it’s a huge loss for the global knowledge economy.
Thus, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz rightly says, “How we regulate and manage the production of knowledge and the right of access to knowledge is at the centre of how well this new economy, the knowledge economy works and who benefits. At stake are matters of both distribution and economy.”
Along with this what happens is that both globalised localism and localised globalism accelerate a new process of oppression, exclusion of manyof those who are at the periphery, fast restructuring and general subordination of local conditions.
The process of globalisation of knowledge has a new ground for the growth of neoliberal forms of economic imperialism mostly dominated by huge private information technology corporations like the Google and Facebook.
These and other prominent knowledge cartels are making us easily read, write, think and probably to recreate creative contents every single day. They are positioning themselves at the centre of production and simply the distribution of knowledge.
Fairly, web journalism is thriving at the back of these giant knowledge machines. The way these platforms are distributing knowledge is definitely at the running the risk of counterfeiting. Globally strengthening governance systems of IPR is a good idea.
However, crystallising the same near equally is more than an uphill task. The reason behind is that this “one size fits all” approach of the global IPR regime launched by the TRIPS Agreement is not feasible for developing and least developed nations. The poor record of implementation of the agreement and inadequate IP governance structure in many of these developing nations are posing a constant threat to protect IPRs.
Again, these nations are facing more pressing issues such as poverty, mal-nutrition, terrorism, political instability and above all corruption in high public offices. So where is the time to safeguard precious IPRs?
Their combined efforts are mostly directed towards fighting for survival and for basic needs. Many of these
developing nations also underline the protection of IPRs a matter of elite concern or something to do with the developed world.
Hence, now more than quarter of a century, since 1995, the strict implementation of the TRIPS Agreement has still remained sporadic, except in Japan, the US, Europe and in some other specific nations.
The concern today is that how to enhance unhindered dissemination of knowledge through online contents without risking the IPRs. Else the innovators and creators will have no incentives left for new creations.
Along with this, the emerging information society needs to address the concerns about widening digital divide and access to knowledge in between the advanced and developing nations.
Despite the concerns of critical constituencies within and outside the global IPR governance system, one of the potential threats to the survival of the system is China’s continued and massive IP theft cases both from the US and other holders of IP. Indeed, America is fighting another Cold War with China on this front.
To conclude, one can say IPRs demand full protection both for the creators and for the welfare of humanity. Hence, the IPR, a hitherto obscure and arcane area of study till the 1990s, now needed to be made a popular discipline starting from the schools to the universities. No need to treat IPRs predominantly as a lawyer’s paradise.
Then only the knowledge economy widely growing through web journalism can be safely used. It’s the need of the hour. It’s a matter of dignity of labour. The creators and innovators who make their work public on online mediums must be respected by paying their dues.
(The writer specialises in globalization, international conflict and global governance. He recently published his book “Globalization and Intellectual Proper Rights — A comparative study of the patent Governance Systems of India and the EU”)