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Public Goods and the Public Domain: The Access to Knowledge in Developing Countries, and Innovation in Health, Education and Science

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Forero Pineda, Clemente
Conference: UNCTAD-ICTSD Dialogue on Moving the Pro-development IP Agenda Forward: Preserving Public Goods in Health, Education and Learning
Location: Bellagio
Conf. Date: 29 November - 3 December 2004
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2096
Sector: Information & Knowledge
Subject(s): information
public goods and bads
public domain
Abstract: "Information and knowledge may be viewed as public goods when non-rivalry applies to their use (the use by one agent does not deplete what remains available for others) and it is highly costly to exclude others from its use. As a corollary, a piece of knowledge or a set of information may be viewed as global public goods when non-rivalry and non-excludability apply to them on a global scale. "In contrast, the public domain is to be analyzed as one particular institutional setting or arrangement. Information is not in the public domain by its public good nature, or by its Governmental origin, but as the result of a network of formal and informal social agreements, explicit or implicit, but in any case entrenched in common law and in the culture of a society. There is a tradition ascribing most information and knowledge obtained in government-funded science to the public domain, with the important exception of classified research for purposes of national security or economic competitive strategy. Nonetheless, the public domain for information and knowledge could be wider than that. It could include information and knowledge produced by international agencies and information 'contractually designated as unprotected,' just as a legal definition may state. Intellectual property protection schemes like patent law grant commercial monopolies in exchange for a contribution to the public domain of knowledge. The same cannot be said of trade secret protection, like that recently granted to clinical research data. "Scientific knowledge is close to the ideal of a pure public good, but health and education goods generally combine private and public 'components.' As these sectors evolve, the knowledge component is combined with rival manufactured products, as a means of ensuring at least partial exclusion in the market. This is the result of research, education and health being activities where market institutions, usually fit for private goods, have for a long time coexisted with non-market institutional arrangements, ensuring incentives for knowledge creation and innovation, where the market fails to provide them. "A proposal for global institutional reform is advanced, stemming from the distinction between global public goods and global public domain. Health problems of the developing world which are not the concern of markets and companies in developed countries could be better confronted under the proposed scheme."

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