The Access to Knowledge Mobilization and the New Politics of Intellectual Property Law

Innovation and Economic Growth, Intellectual Property, Open Source and Copyright and Trademark

Article Snapshot


Amy Kapczynski


Yale Law Journal Pocket Part, Vol. 117, pg. 262, 2008


This paper looks at how international efforts towards “access to knowledge” might change intellectual property policy.

Policy Relevance

Law affects people's attitudes and actions in the political debate about the strength of intellectual property.

Main Points

  • Groups such as farmers in developing countries, free software advocates, and AIDS activists have joined in a movement to question intellectual property rights and support access to knowledge, or “A2K”.
    • These groups have been active in lobbying the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and within the United States at agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Sociologists theorize that interest groups' choices of explanation, or framing processes, can affect the development of law and policy.
    • A farmer asked to pay high prices for medicine might think that his wages are too low, or that the price is too high, or that the high price makes sense given the cost of developing new medicines. These beliefs will affect his actions.
  • A number of industry groups have lobbied legislators in past decades, so that intellectual property rights are much stronger than before.
  • Groups that support IP tend to describe open access to information with pejorative terms like piracy, while A2K advocates use positive terms like freedom or innovation.
  • Law itself affects the frames that people choose. Legal terms like “intellectual property” help or hinder people in understanding how to frame policy problems.

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