Access To Knowledge

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Marco Berlinguer:

"This is a loose coalition of civil society organisations, scientists, educators and governments, mainly of the global South. Again, the converging focus is the struggle against the way intellectual property rights are being deployed to limit access to knowledge-embedded goods, including drugs, education and science. These struggles are based on principles of global justice; but increasingly voices are raised contesting the rationality of these policies from the perspective of economic efficiency and development."


Marco Berlinguer:

"An important struggle for the A2K movement was over access to anti-retroviral drugs during the 1990s, when a new class of drugs to fight HIV/AIDS had become available but was sold in developing countries at prohibitively high prices. When, in 1998, the South African government amended its laws to facilitate the import of generic versions of the drugs costing 10 times less, it was sued by 39 of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, supported by US and EU governments The successful outcome of the struggle to defend the generic drugs in 2001 led other developing countries to pass similar legislation and to become increasingly vocal.

A second success was around access to scientific publishing.

In this case, it emerged in reaction to the continuous and unjustified increase over the past two decades in the prices of commercial scientific journals, which created unbearable barriers for universities, public libraries and scientists, and not only in poorer countries. Such a situation also clashed with the tradition of freely sharing scientific works. The movement against the price hikes coalesced around the creation of open access journals (OAJ)18, which are having a major impact on the market of scientific journals, not least because they seem better to reflect the logic of scientific publishing. Numerous other open access initiatives are also spreading in education, school textbooks and university courses, effectively combining the pursuit of principles of social justice with the conviction that sharing is the best policy to knowledge improvement and development.

The A2K arguments have even reached the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which has undertaken a scrutiny of the way that the pervasive policies of patenting are damaging for technological and scientific innovation, cooperation and advancement – ‘the tragedy of the anti-commons’." (draft for Red Pepper)