|Third UNESCO Congress on Ethical, Legal and
Societal Challenges of Cyberspace
Theme A - The role of public authorities in access to information
While industry and business are providing the infra-structure for access to information resources, as well as contents, the challenge is to define the concepts of "public domain" and "universal access" in a global context to promote common public welfare while encouraging private initiative and protecting rightful economic interests.
Broader and more efficient provision of public contents:
As much of global knowledge is not subject to intellectual property rights, what needs to be done to avoid under-provision of this knowledge? What information should be considered as a national and/or global public good? Should the concept of public domain of classical and anonymous works and information produced with public funds be extended to include "copy-left" information distributed free of charge subject to certain authors' rights (e.g. open source software)? What policies should be adopted on the provision of this information? What criteria (economic, political, ethical, social, educational) should guide the adoption of these policies? How should the production and delivery of this information be financed?
How can the participation of citizens in the production of and access to information be encouraged? What special measures are needed to help developing countries and disadvantaged communities benefit from available knowledge and information? How can private industry more effectively exploit and contribute to the electronic public domain? What are the distinctions and interplay between electronic and traditionally published public domain information? What is the role of traditional information institutions and of virtual libraries and archives?
Facilitating access to networks and services:
What are the most important economic obstacles to access to information (telecommunication tariffs, Internet access fees, taxes and duties, etc.)? How can public administrations balance the commercial interests with their civic and moral obligations to promote equitable access? What financial mechanisms can be put into place to ensure universal access to information (cross subsidies, preferential taxation, etc.). Should telecommunication regulatory and tariff policies be extended to cover Internet access? What political, ethical, social and cultural criteria should be used in the formulation of such policies? Can some goods (tangible and intangible products) be exempted from tariffs? Could Internet taxation be a viable and useful approach? Should the concept of "e-rates" (preferential tariffs for educational and cultural institutions) be standardized and generalized? Could it be applied internationally to assist public service institutions and disadvantaged communities in developing countries? How can public authorities assist public service and civil society institutions to contribute to solutions (consortia, community facilities, freenets, etc.)? What role can the media play in facilitating the worldwide acceptance of the concept of universal access?
Theme B - The "fair use" concept in the Information Society
The well established principle of "fair use" of copyrighted information for educational and scholarly purposes is being questioned for digital media because of substantial new economic interests, increased piracy of copyrighted works, increased susceptibility to abuse and difficulties of control. Yet arguments can also be made for an extension of the "fair use" concept for the common good of society in the digital age. Governments need to balance their strategy between preserving the integrity of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and the need for broad access to information and knowledge. Furthermore, levels of protection and access should be harmonized world-wide, particularly in the context of global information networks. Collective global reflection is required to reach conclusions in taking account of the interests of all stakeholders, including authors, right holders, citizens, public services and developing countries.
The "fair use" concept in education, science, culture and communication:
What should be the principles of "fair use" of copyrighted information in the fields of competence of UNESCO? What are the limits of "fair use" so as to avoid illicit traffic in or destruction of intellectual and cultural property? Are special conditions or safeguards necessary for information on electronic media? Should the present conventions and consultative processes on IPRs be extended to pay more attention to the problem of "fair use"? If so, how should this be done?
Application of legal exceptions to copyright for developing countries (through international conventions):
What incentives should be put in place to help developing countries strengthen the system of the co-operative IPR enforcement? How can the cultural, artistic and scientific heritage of developing countries, including traditional and indigenous information, be suitably protected and made fairly available? Would it be feasible and useful to consider allocation of a symbolic percentage of fees received on private copies (unrecorded supports and reading devices) to subsidize developing countries access to international index works protected by the IPRs?
Theme C - Protecting human dignity in the digital age
The principle of free access to and free flow of information as defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights must be ensured on digital media, while content security, reliability and trustworthiness are essential attributes of future information networks. The Internet is indeed a new mass medium, but also differs qualitatively from the "traditional" media in the degree to which it permits individual as well as mass interaction, providing new possibilities for creativity, expression and provision of personal services while raising the new threats of manipulation of citizens. Governments, in both industrialized and developing countries, should take action to guarantee citizens' security, privacy and freedom of expression in the Information Society. Clearer guidelines and legal and ethical frameworks on these issues, equally applicable to all, need to be formulated.
Protection of privacy on global networks:
How can governments restrict invasive data mining and protect privacy in e-transactions without infringement of the principle of free access? How can they ensure that the legitimate users' rights to access information are compatible with their equally legitimate rights for privacy? What policies are necessary to ensure protection of sensitive information and law enforcement on the networks? What commercial, ethical and social approaches should be considered in addition to technological solutions (cryptography, digital signature, etc.)? Should codes of conduct be applied across borders to provide fairness, equality, justice and morality in the handling (collection, repackaging, modification, sale) of private data? If need be, who should prepare such codes? How can the industry and users be encouraged to work together on ensuring the reliability and security of global networks? How could stronger partnerships of important new civil society organizations and the traditional international community help to resolve these questions?
Freedom of expression through electronic media:
How should one distinguish between content truly intended for mass dissemination and content shared within a small group of voluntary participants or individual communications given a wider circulation without the authors' intent? How can one ascertain the paternity and responsibility for content originated by one party, and disseminated, redisseminated or modified by others? Are international rating and filtering systems for the Internet violating the right to freedom of expression? How can one avoid that such schemes prevent individuals from discussing controversial or unpopular topics, impose burdensome compliance costs on speakers, distort the fundamental cultural diversity of the Internet or infringe on the rights to information of citizens world wide? Could alternative educational approaches be emphasized as less restrictive means of ensuring beneficial uses of the Internet? What, if any, is the need for international consensus on codes of conduct and regulatory frameworks for the Internet?