STATEMENT BY MS. ROBIN D. GROSS
Thank you Mr. Chairman, your Excellencies, and
I represent IP Justice, an international civil liberties
organization that promotes balanced intellectual property
law and freedom of expression in cyberspace.
What an exciting time we live in! The Internet has
created an unprecedented opportunity to distribute
knowledge, culture, and information to all, at near zero
How lucky we are to witness the emergence of this
tool that enables the free exchange of ideas, creativity
among citizens, and education for the impoverished.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all
citizens the right to freedom of expression in any medium,
regardless of frontiers. Although written half a century
ago, this pledge foreshadows the struggles we now face over
cyberspace. On the Internet, we must fight just to hold on
to the same freedoms long guaranteed in traditional space.
One of the greatest threats to freedom of expression in
an information society is over-zealous efforts to control
Let’s be clear: Intellectual property rights are not
human rights, they are private monopolies on information. If
calibrated too high, these monopolies stifle the very
creativity they were designed to foster.
The global trend is to increase the duration and the
scope of IPR ‘protections’, while eroding the limitations to
those monopolies. These policies overwhelmingly benefit
wealthy countries, at the expense of the poorer nations.
Today we have laws that outlaw discussing or publishing
information that could be used to bypass "digital
locks" on media. Computer scientists have been threatened
with litigation, and in some cases, even arrested.
Facts can now be "owned" under new database rights that
wall off public information for the exploitation of a single
Copyright terms are endlessly extended to prevent works
from ever passing into the public domain, where all may
freely benefit from them.
Trademark rights over Internet domain names are routinely
used to attack free speech.
Software patents threaten technological innovation, and
small businesses are afraid to write software that might
use a proprietary algorithm.
Yes, we can build an information society with greater
restrictions on the free flow of information. But at what
cost? We must recognize the costs to society of these
monopolies and weigh them against their benefits.
We want an information society that encourages
collaboration through free and open source software, or the
Creative Commons’ sharing of music, video, and text.
We want business models that actually pay creators a
living wage. We can do better than the lip-service currently
paid to creators by publishers who own, exploit, and control
We need policies that create a vibrant public domain from
which all receive cultural and intellectual nourishment.
We face a crucial question: Do we build an information
society with more fences, taller walls, and stronger chains?
Or do we create a new world that encourages collaboration,
innovation, creativity, and sharing of knowledge?
Will we guided by our fear of the uncertainties of
new technologies? Or by our hope for the
possibilities of a future information society? The choice is
ours and the stakes are high.