Intellectual Property: The Promise and Risk of Human Rights

AuthorChidi Oguamanam
Intellectual Property: The Promise and Risk
of Human Rights1
 
 : The intersection of intellectual property and human rights
is a relatively new site in the search for balance in intellectual property law
and policy. Although this intersection opens up intellectual property to a
unique kind of interdisciplinary analysis, only the human rights system ap-
pears to have seized the opportunity, while its intellectual property rights
counterpart remains reluctant to engage. There are, so far, dierent com-
peting rst impressions over the nature of the intersection between intel-
lectual property and human rights. Despite empirical credence of the con-
ict narrative, the co-existence or complementary thesis of the intellectual
property and human rights interface has greater prospects for a meaningful
and balanced rapprochement between the two. This chapter argues for a
critical scrutiny of the human rights appeal of intellectual property rights
in order to avoid its potential for being hijacked by stronger stakeholders
at the expense of their weaker opponents for whom intellectual property
rights have strong paradoxical ramications.
: L’intersection entre la propriété intellectuelle et les droits de
la personne est un point relativement nouveau dans la recherche d’un équi-
1 Thanks to Professor Tesh Dagne for reading and commenting on this paper in draft. I am
grateful to Professor Scassa, Professor Goudreau, Madelaine Saginur, and B Courtney
Doagoo, the conveners of the 2012 Intellectual Property Scholars Workshop, for inviting
me to speak, and to the members of the academy and anonymous reviewers of this con-
tribution for their helpful feedback.
328 •  
libre en droit et en politique de la propriété intellectuelle. Même si cette in-
tersection ouvre la porte à une analyse interdisciplinaire unique pour la pro-
priété intellectuelle, le système des droits de la personne semble être seul à
en avoir saisi l’occasion, tandis que son homologue en droit de la propriété
intellectuelle demeure réticent à se lancer. Jusqu’à maintenant, il existe plu-
sieurs premières impressions sur la nature de l’intersection entre la propriété
intellectuelle et les droits de la personne. Malgré les croyances empiriques
concernant le narratif du conit, la thèse de la coexistence ou de la complé-
mentarité dans l’interface entre la propriété intellectuelle et les droits de la
personne donne un plus grand espoir de rapprochement sérieux et équilibré
entre les deux. Ce chapitre plaide pour un examen critique minutieux de l’at-
trait des droits de la personne pour la propriété intellectuelle, pour empê-
cher que le potentiel des premiers soit détourné par des parties prenantes
aux dépens de leurs opposants plus faibles pour qui les droits de la propriété
intellectuelle ont des fortes ramications paradoxales.
Striking a just balance between rights holders and users of innovations and
creativity is a constant quest of intellectual property (IP) law and policy. Both
in their statutory and common law derivations, intellectual property rights
(IPRs) have built-in mechanisms for negotiating this balance. However, the
complexity and multiplicity not only of various claimants to IPRs but also of
IP regimes make the quest for balance contentious and elusive. These fac-
tors have also yielded diverse conceptual frameworks for the discourse of
balance in IP jurisprudence. That discourse challenges the adequacy of so-
called built-in mechanisms in IP law to respond to public policy considera-
tions and diverse renditions of the balance narrative.
Aside from when the analysis focuses on specic statutory accommo-
dations in national IP laws,2 the diverse conceptual frameworks for broaching
2 See, for example, copyright statutes’ accommodation or lack thereof of freedom of ex-
pression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act,
1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11 and the Fourth Amendment
of the United States Constitution, US Const amend IV; see Ysolde Gendreau, “Copyright
and Freedom of Expression in Canada” in Paul LC Torremans, ed, Copyright and Human
Rights: Freedom of Expression, Intellectual Property, Privacy (The Hague: Kluwer Law, 2004)
21–36 [Torremans, Freedom of Expression]; Wendy Gordon, “Do We Have a Right to Speak
in Another’s Language? Eldred and the Duration of Copyright” in Torremans, Freedom of
Expression, ibid.

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