Interview | James Love: The Copyright Ratchet, International Treaties & Fighting for Access

James ‘Jamie’ Love is Director of Knowledge Ecology International. His training is in economics and finance, and work focuses on the production, management and access to knowledge resources, as well as aspects of competition policy. The current focus is on the financing of research and development, intellectual property rights, prices for and access to new drugs, vaccines and other medical technologies, as well as related topics for other knowledge goods, including data, software, other information protected by copyright or related rights, and proposals to expand the production of knowledge as a public good. James advises UN agencies, national governments, international and regional intergovernmental organisations and public health NGOs, and is the author of a number of articles and monographs on innovation and intellectual property rights.

He talks about access to information being one of the emerging issues of his generation, and how he got wrapped-up in the idea of making access to information more equal and less expensive for everyone. James recalls the failed push for a database Treaty at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the EU’s stubbornness by adopting the Database Directive, and how this, and term extensions, are textbook examples of the ‘copyright ratchet.’ He highlights the dangers of things creeping into international trade agreements, which can tie up politicians’ hands to change course. James touches on the WTO debates on vaccines in relation to the pandemic. He shares first-hand insights on the WIPO Marrakesh Treaty on access to published works for blind and visually impaired persons, including the many attempts to push back against it. James warns of the continuous push for a WIPO Broadcasting Treaty, and the pressure exerted by rights holders on policymakers. Finally, he concludes by observing how the lengthy negotiations on a Broadcasting Treaty, now ongoing for 25 years, has worn out the opposition against it, as priorities shift to other things.

Do you prefer watching our passionate interviewees talking about the 21st-century walls blocking access to culture? Then check out the vlog below.

Video highlights with timestamps:

00:00 Intro

01:55 How a growing interest in data-related issues let to a broader focus on IPRs

11:55 The failed push for a WIPO Database Treaty

19:18 The EU’s stubbornness by adopting the Database Directive

20:30 The ‘copyright ratchet’

21:03 The dangers of things creeping into international trade agreements

26:23 The WTO debates on vaccines in relation to the pandemic

32:50 The road towards the WIPO Marrakesh Treaty

41:36 The strong opposition against the WIPO Marrakesh Treaty

48:32 Lobbyists scaring the ‘bejesus’ out of corporate clients

51:04 The broad ratification of the WIPO Marrakesh Treaty

52:21 Pushing back against a WIPO Broadcasting Treaty for 25 years

01:00:38 Final thoughts