Knowledge Commune is a non-for-profit, civil society organization that pursues both research and campaign aiming at an open and shared knowledge rather than a knowledge privatization.

Commercialization and privatization of knowledge has increasingly spread around the world, starting with the United States in the 1980s. South Korea began to be captured by its sway from the early 1990s. Now, it is taken for granted that knowledge generated by universities, academics and public research institutes is sold out to private companies, which was, just 30 years ago, couldn’t even dream of. The slogan of ‘industry-academic cooperation’ or ‘technology transfer’ becomes vehicles making knowledge privatization to permeate every corner of our society.

This tendency is further structuralized by legislation – the Framework Act of Intellectual Property, which was enacted in 2011 and obligates the central and local governments as well as public research institutions to privatize and commercialize knowledge. This obligation extends to private entities, too. Sharing knowledge with neighbors and collaborating with colleagues is now treated as breaking the spirit of the FAIP. The FAIP also formed a firm structure under which scholars of universities and researchers of public institutes are evaluated higher when they get more patents. In the area of copyright, a myth that strong protection is good and stronger protection is better is widespread. On top of that, the FAIP requires the Korean government to implement educational, cultural and public relations policies for enhancing the public’s awareness of intellectual property and create social environment in which intellectual property is respected (Art. 29(1)).

The framework to institutionalize knowledge privatization and commercialization is the intellectual property rights system. The IPR system was globalized in the mid-1990s through the World Trade Organization and, South Korea had been put under the foreign trade pressures for longer than 20 years since the WTO era yet began, and forced to adopt trade-related aspects of IPR systems demanded by the U.S. and the EU. In this process, the importation of ideology has been accompanied by the importation of institution, and a new actor or agency was created. This agency has consistently driven the IP maximalist agenda. Notably, this agency is different from the private sector agency who initially pushed for the adoption of TRIPS and subsequently TRIPS-plus rules. The new agency is a public sector agency – the Patent Office– and is much powerful as it governs the policy-making process and holds control of institutions. They internalize the IP maximalist agenda for their own sake rather than for the interest of the whole society.

We need to stop this and fundamentally reform the IP policy structure. Key for the reform is turning on the nature of knowledge. Knowledge becomes more valuable when kept widely shared and stayed open. There have long been movements to share and open up knowledge for the whole community. The “Access to Knowledge” movement against the globalization of intellectual property is one of the best campaigns. The Knowledge Commons movement is also a great knowledge-sharing initiative for our organization’s study and campaign. The concept of human rights, especially the right to science and culture, is believed to provide theoretical and practical alternatives for the counter-framework to the existing trade-centric IP norms.

🔶 Baker Brook: Professor of Law, Northeastern University, Health GAP Senior Policy Analyst. Refer to https://www.northeastern.edu/law/faculty/directory/baker.html.

🔶 James Love: Director of Knowledge Ecology International, Refer to https://www.keionline.org/jamie

🔶 Jane Kelsey: Professor of Law, The University of Auckland. Refer to https://unidirectory.auckland.ac.nz/profile/j-kelsey

🔶 Sean Flynn: Professor of Washing College of Law, American University, Director of PIJIP (Program on Intellectual Property and Public Interest), Refer to https://www.wcl.american.edu/community/faculty/profile/flynn/bio

Address: 3, 4, 5F, Yerim Bldg., 112-3 Bogwang-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 04406
Tel: +82 (0)2 976 1839
Fax: +82 (0)2 796 1840
Email: hurips@gmail.com, heesobnam@commons.foundation