In this interview, Celia Lerman, professor and researcher of Intellectual Property at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella law school, discusses her path to internet governance work and her recent publication on internet policy in Latin America, “Multistakeholderism and Internet Governance". Lerman reflects on the crucial role of multistakeholderism in the movement for open democracy and the broader issues facing the implementation of a successful model of internet governance.
How did you first become interested in internet governance and multistakeholderism?
I became interested in internet governance early in my career when I was working as an intellectual property lawyer in Buenos Aires, working with international domain name disputes. The procedures for solving these disputes caught my attention: it seemed so strange to me that the domain name disputes I was working on had to be submitted to a panel based in Geneva and hold the procedure in English, even when both parties were based in Latin America and spoke Spanish as a first language. That sparked my interest in exploring better rules and solutions for Latin American internet users relating to their rights on the Internet.
Soon after I started working in academia in 2011, I participated in my first ICANN meeting as a fellow in Dakar, Senegal, and in the Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest organized by American University. Both meetings were incredible windows to internet governance and policy discussions for me.
What overlap is there between the fields of internet governance and your other expertise, such as intellectual property law?
The overlap between internet governance and intellectual property law is feared and loathed by many, especially when IP laws are used to restrict the sharing of content over the internet and jeopardize freedom of expression. But the intersection is not necessarily negative. Interestingly, IP laws are uniquely helpful to think through novel issues of internet policy and governance, and what the rules about intangible property should be like. This may be why many IP scholars are increasingly involved in the field of internet policy.
I failed miserably to stop myself browsing my various feeds over the Christmas break (New Year’s resolution: ‘browse less, produce more’ – destined for failure). One theme that emerged was the rise of the ‘North in the South’ on health – what I call Cinderella Issues. Things like road traffic accidents, the illegal drug trade, smoking or alcohol that do huge (and growing) damage in developing countries, but are relegated to the margins of the development debate. If my New Year reading is anything to go by, that won’t last for long.
ODI kicked off with Future Diets, an excellent report on obesity by Sharada Keats and Steve Wiggins. Its top killer fact was that the number ofobese/overweight people in developing countries (904 million) has more than tripled since 1980 and has now overtaken the number of malnourished (842 million, according to the FAO).