Internet copyright policy: Multistakeholder or Multilateral?

22 October 2013 - A Workshop on Multistakeholderism in Bali, Indonesia


Many accept the multistakeholder model as being the appropriate framework through which Internet policy should be developed. Under this model, all stakeholders, whether from the private sector, government, academia, civil society or non-governmental organizations, participate in the policy development process.


It is well-settled that Internet-related Intellectual Property policy, which includes copyright, has become part and parcel of Internet policy. But, in contrast with Internet policy, copyright policy is not developed through multistakeholder processes. The multilateral fora of the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the World Trade Organisation, in addition to plurilateral and bilateral trade agreements, set the copyright norms that many countries are expected to follow.  


As the Internet and digitization have collided with traditional copyright regimes, copyright’s ‘square peg’ - where uses of copyrighted works require permission - is increasingly unable to cope with the Internet ‘round hole’ -  where replication of data is fundamental to the operation of the Internet. The question is who should participate in the process to deal with regulation that addresses this problem.

This workshop will pose the question of whether copyright policy for the Internet-environment should be developed in a new, multistakeholder forum, or whether the status quo of multilateral fora is the most appropriate. The workshop will take the form of an Oxford-style debate, with one team supporting the multistakeholder proposition, and the other supporting the multilateral status quo. In the Oxford style, one team advances and supports a proposition, to be refuted by the opposing team. That proposition will be:  Internet-related copyright policy should be developed under a new paradigm, consisting of a multistakeholder framework that enables all sectors on equal footing to participate.