Today 32 civil society organizations working on improving access to knowledge around the globe — including COMMUNIA, Creative Commons and the Wikimedia Foundation — are launching the Access to Knowledge or A2K Coalition.
Access to knowledge is not enjoyed equally across the world. Crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency, highlight the barriers that the current copyright system poses for those who learn, teach, research, create, preserve or seek to enjoy the world’s cultural heritage.
On the international level — which plays out mainly in the fora provided by the World Intellectual Property Organization — the current copyright framework has failed to keep pace with advancing technology and practices, including for digital and cross-border activities. Consequently, people in large parts of the world have been unable to seize the possibilities that digital technologies have created when it comes to access to — and use of — knowledge and other cultural resources and to achieve more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable societies.
The members of the A2K Coalition represent educators, researchers, students, libraries, archives, museums, other knowledge users, and creative communities around the globe. Their individual missions are varied, but they all share a vision of a fair and balanced copyright system.
The new website of the A2K Coalition lists a number of demands for education, research and access to cultural heritage – available in English, French and Spanish. In addition, the A2K Coalition website also showcases evidence substantiating the Coalition’s demands by providing three maps that track the state of copyright limitations and exceptions for online education, text and data mining, and preservation across most countries in the world (currently, only the text and data mining map is fully implemented, while the maps for online education and preservation will follow soon).
The new A2K Coalition will be an important venue for ensuring that the increasing focus on users’ rights that we see in the copyright frameworks of some parts of the world — most notably the European Union — will also be reflected in other parts of the world, where access to knowledge and culture need equally strong protections. There is a huge opportunity to turn WIPO — which has traditionally been a venue for spreading maximalist conceptions of copyright around the globe — into a venue that can do the same for users’ rights to access knowledge and culture and to free cultural expression.