Intellectual property rights (IPRs) encompass several different legal regimes—such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, and “sui generis” protections—developed to protect intangible assets associated with ideas, expressions, and inventions, which are included under the broad umbrella term of “intellectual property” (IP). However, the evolution of these legal regimes has always been fraught with tension. Those desiring access to knowledge without restrictive property barriers resisted the expansion of IPRs, which means that the history of IP is entangled in development efforts. As member countries of the United Nations sought to fully extend IP protection around the globe, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was created, central to which was the debate over the scope of international IP and demands by the less developed countries for less restrictive IPRs. However, it is the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Agreement (TRIPS) that has become the most powerful arbiter of IP rights. Meanwhile, the main debates and the specific political battles surrounding IPRs include, but are not limited to, biotechnology, biopiracy, copyright piracy, file sharing, traditional knowledge, access to knowledge, and access to medicine. Ultimately, the literature on international IP has evolved considerably, becoming increasingly relevant to more than legal scholars and business professionals. Nevertheless, additional research is needed in theorizing about the core concepts of IP; the complex role between nationalism, the state, culture, and IPRs; and the search for alternatives to IP.
Debora Halbert and Ashley Lukens
The creation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPs) in the mid-1990s altered the regulation of intellectual property under international law. Prior to the TRIPs Agreement, intellectual property regulation consisted of a patchwork of international treaties and conventions coordinating reciprocal national treatment of signatory states’ domestic intellectual property protection. Generally, those agreements strove for minimum standards of protection, but left levels and types of protection to member states’ national discretion. TRIPs’s strict uniformity represented a momentous change. Development theorists who have examined the practical implications of intellectual property regulation under international law have echoed critical theorists’ assertions of TRIPs as a watershed moment. However, they have expressed concerns over the domination exercised by developed countries over developing countries within the current international intellectual property regulatory system. Of particular importance are international impositions into developing countries’ national legal systems via TRIPs, and efforts of developed countries to extract from developing countries intellectual property concessions over and above those contained in TRIPs. A wide range of articles on intellectual property regulation under international law have also been published in legal journals and periodicals. Three broad themes stand out: concerns about practice and practical applications (i.e., practice tips, reviews of cases and WTO decisions); concerns about policy aspects and consequences of intellectual property law; and exploration of the philosophical underpinnings of the law.
Sarah Cleeland Knight and Catherine L. Mann
Electronic commerce (or e-commerce) is the purchase or sale of goods or services over any kind of computer network. Possible networks include the Internet; an extranet, which is a private platform that uses Internet technology, or TCP/IP; and an electronic data interchange (EDI) network. The study of e—commerce can be roughly divided into three levels of analysis: global systemic, state, and individual firm or person. The global systemic or international level considers how e—commerce influences relations between states. The state level considers how e—commerce affects the business of government and the relationship between the state and society (including firms and persons). It allows one to compare similarities and differences in terms of what governments are doing to promote (or, less commonly, to discourage) the use of e—commerce, and the impact of e—commerce on a country’s economic performance. Finally, the individual level, which looks at firms as well as individual persons, considers how e—commerce changes how firms and individuals interact within a given society, whether through their economic relations or otherwise. The literature on e—commerce differs by discipline, with considerably more attention given to e—commerce by the legal, business, and technical communities than by our respective social science disciplines, economics, and political science.
The internet is a set of software instructions (known as “protocols”) capable of transmitting data over networks. These protocols were designed to facilitate the movement of data across independently managed networks and different physical media, and not to survive a nuclear war as the popular myth suggests. The use of the internet protocols gives rise to technical, legal, regulatory, and policy problems that become the main concern of internet governance. Because the internet is a key component of the infrastructure for a growing digital economy, internet governance has turned into an increasingly high-stakes arena for political activity. The world’s convergence on the internet protocols for computer communications, coupled with the proliferation of a variety of increasingly inexpensive digital devices that can be networked, has created a new set of geopolitical issues around information and communication technologies. These problems are intertwined with a broader set of public policy issues such as freedom of expression, privacy, transnational crime, the security of states and critical infrastructure, intellectual property, trade, and economic regulation. Political scientists and International Relations scholars have been slow to attack these problems, in part due to the difficulty of recognizing governance issues when they are embedded in a highly technological context. Internet governance is closely related to, and has evolved out of, debates over digital convergence, telecommunications policy, and media regulation.
Stefan H. Fritsch
International information and communication have become central cornerstones for global economic, political, social, and cultural actors, issues, structures, and processes. Accordingly, various social science disciplines have become interested in understanding international communication’s economic properties and also produced empirical evidence demonstrating its remarkable impact on global economic development. Subsequently, the relationship between technological evolution and the evolving economics of international communication has become of central importance to the analysis of international communication. Of particular relevance in this context is digitization’s impact on information and communication technologies and related digital conversion processes of once separated media and business sectors. In this context, the constantly evolving economic and technological properties of international information and communication systems and the economic opportunities/challenges they pose have also motivated or forced individuals, business enterprises, states, as well as international organizations to pursue structural and policy changes in order to reap the potential benefits of international information and communication.