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The Right to Science and Culture

Lea Shaver

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

March 6, 2009

Wisconsin Law Review, Vol. 2010, p. 121

Over the past three decades, protections for intellectual property have dramatically expanded, both domestically and internationally. Today, economists and legal scholars widely agree that patent and copyright protections are higher than ideal. Excessive protectionism constrains individual liberty, limits the diffusion of innovation, impedes economic growth, and results in higher prices for consumers.

International IP law, however, poses a significant barrier to reform. A network of multilateral and bilateral trade treaties operates as a one-way ratchet, promoting ever-higher protections and constraining the ability of domestic policymakers to impose sensible limits.

One possible route out of this dilemma may be found at Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which specifies that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” This article suggests how this text may offer a philosophical and legal basis to constrain the further expansion of protectionism in international IP law.

Drawing on accepted methodologies of human rights interpretation and recent research from legal and economic scholars on the value of preserving the knowledge commons, the article offers a theory of “the right to science and culture” as requiring a public goods approach to knowledge innovation and diffusion.

In conclusion, the article suggests that reviving attention to this long-marginalized provision of international public law may provide an important rhetorical and legal tool with which to open up new possibilities for sensible IP reform.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 64

Keywords: human rights, intellectual property, access to knowledge, universal declaration, UDHR, socio-economic rights, cultural rights, article 27, ICESCR, article 15, science, culture, technology

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Date posted: March 6, 2009 ; Last revised: August 27, 2012

Suggested Citation

Shaver, Lea, The Right to Science and Culture (March 6, 2009). Wisconsin Law Review, Vol. 2010, p. 121 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1354788 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1354788

Contact Information

Lea Bishop Shaver (Contact Author)
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law ( email )
530 West New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
United States

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