October 17, 2003

WIPO criticises open source but uses Linux

Larry Lessig has written a great piece about the recent spat in which the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) criticised open-source software as running counter to its mission and open source advocates rose up in anger. The article is less hot-under-the-collar than Lessig's (understandably) irrate first posting on this topic. He's come to the conclusion, correctly I think, that if anyone's to blame it's the politicians, who listen more closely to Microsoft's lobbyists than their own consciences. The WIPO are, at worst, just being weak and clueless.

But I think the WIPO are also guilty of oraganisational hypocrisy. Maybe I just missed it, but I haven't seen anyone comment on this point yet, hence this post.

The WIPO, which not only uses open-source software itself, but also sings its praises in meetings. This, for example, in March 2002 on IBIS, their international patent classification system:

It is worthwhile to mention that this is one of the first initiatives to use open source software in WIPO IT projects; the publishing framework called Cocoon comes from the Apache Foundation, and it is available free of charge. The system runs on LINUX.

(A little ironically, this new system was built to replace a nine-year-old DOS-based one.)

And this in February 2003 on the PCT-SAFE (Patent Cooperation Treaty - Secure Applications Filed Electronically) system:

The Secretariat also reminded delegates that the software will be made available free to Member States and applicants; the editor and the Client will be available free of charge and downloadable via the PCT-SAFE website; the receiving server software will be made available to any Receiving Office under the PCT who requests it; and a low level certificate will be obtainable via a WIPO website and it is planned via WIPONET. In addition, the Secretariat also expressed interest to participate in some form of open source, and was already working with the EPO [European Patent Organisation] towards such an arrangement... the Delagation of the EPO took to the floor to comment upon the strength of cooperation and harmonisation with WIPO... In respect of open source, the EPO had decided to go to open source for its full epoline software with respect to electronic-filing... In response to a question from the Del[e]gation of the United Kingdom about the future developments of the online filing system and their inclusion within the MOU [memo of understanding] between WIPO and the EPO, the Secretariat was pleased to report that the move, by the EPO to open source, would mean that future cooperation would be assured and would take place in a more rich dev[e]leopment environoment... With regard to the IPC tutorials track, open source software had been used for development and had proved cost effective.

Mm, not much sign of open source-bashing there. As a friend has pointed out to me, it makes sense for the WIPO to go for open source and open standards because they have to ensure that people on any platform and in any country can upload to their servers. A shame, then, that they they don't think so much about people who are downloading and that they chose to publish the above documents as Word files. They also managed to leave out any mention of open source from their press release on PCT-SAFE. A conspiracy? Na! Don't assign to malevolence what can just as easily be explained by ignorance and carelessness.

Posted by timo at October 17, 2003 10:48 PM | TrackBack
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