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Civil Society Statement for WSIS Plenary September 23rd, 2003

Georg Greve speaking on behalf of the civil society patents, copyright and trademarks working group.

Each generation of mankind is depending upon its predecessors to leave them with a livable, sustainable and stable environment. The environment we are discussing today is that of the information age and future generations will be looking at what we have achieved or not achieved here.

To a large extent, this future rests on three columns.

Science, to advance human knowledge, Law, to provide means of non-violent conflict resolution and Software, to enter and be part of the digital domain. All of these three are in imminent danger.

When asked why he could see so far, Sir Isaac Newton replied that he was standing on the shoulders of giants. Imagine a world where those giants refuse to let him stand on their shoulders. Yet this is the direction that the access to information and knowledge section is taking. Access to information is how we climb upon the shoulders of the giants that were before us.

Law is a tool with which we shape our society. Like any tool it can turn against its creators. By monopolising control over our common heritage as mankind, we give permission to deplete the intellectual and cultural grounds that future generations will need to build upon. A strong and healthy public domain of knowledge will be just as important to them as it was to us.

Software is the medium of and structuring entity for the digital domain. The information age will rest upon it. Having been denounced as a technical development model, Free Software is much more than that. It is a paradigm that secures equal chances and freedom for governments, economy and civil society alike. It provides a truly sustainable model for all areas of society, bringing back competition and furthering innovation for a prosperous and inclusive information and knowledge society for all.

Dear delegates, thank you for your attention.