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The Right to Science and Culture
Wisconsin Law Review (2009)
  • Lea Shaver

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.

  • innovation,
  • science and culture,
  • human rights,
  • cultural participation,
  • technology,
  • access to knowledge,
  • right to benefit from science,
  • right to culture,
  • right to science,
  • international human rights,
  • CESCR,
  • socioeconomic rights,
  • Article 27,
  • universal declaration,
  • UDHR,
  • article 15
Publication Date
Citation Information
Lea Shaver. "The Right to Science and Culture" Wisconsin Law Review Vol. 2010 (2009)
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