The Civil Right to Technology: Crossing the Digital Divide

Prof Sonia Katyal
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Years ago, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights postulated "the right…to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." At the time, it seemed like a relatively simple statement against government censorship and interference with the flow of information. Today, however, we see that this simple principle is at the heart of the conflict between intellectual property, the information society, and the digital divide. Governments--in both the North and South--routinely intervene into the internal activities of Internet Service Providers to track and control information, raising privacy and censorship issues. Both private and public entities engage in massive filtering of information, in cybercafes, homes, and public libraries across the world. At the same time, certain technologies have been developed to circumvent government control--peer-to-peer services, for example, are under sustained attack by intellectual property owners.

All of these means of private and public control clearly impact a consumer's right to access information, but they also illustrate a growing tendency, shared by intellectual property owners and the state, to target specific types of Internet technologies in the process. Consequently, while the right to access information is at the heart of what is at stake, scholars must also recognize the growing importance of an emerging platform that focuses not just on information, but also on the vital role of technology itself.

As a result, this paper postulates the emergence of a new, corollary right to the right to access information: the civil right to technology. I argue that this right emerges at the perfect intersection of economic, social, and political human rights, and that it has also been modelled, adapted, and transformed by the growing conflict between the control of intellectual property and the free flow of information. Special attention will also be paid to the ways in which the digital divide in less-wealthy contexts both challenges and illustrates the need for much more attention to be paid to this civil right to technology, and how it differs in important ways from a more general right to access information.

Keywords: Intellectual Property, Right to Access Information, Copyright, Privacy, Censorship, Human Rights, Civil Rights, Freedom of Expression
Stream: Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof Sonia Katyal

School of Law, Fordham University

Professor Katyal teaches in the areas of intellectual property, property and civil rights. Before coming to Fordham, Professor Katyal was an associate specializing in intellectual property litigation in the San Francisco office of Covington & Burling.

She received her A.B. from Brown University in 1993, and her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 1998.

After law school, Prof. Katyal clerked for the Honorable Carlos Moreno (now a California Supreme Court Justice) in the Central District of California from 1998-99 and the Honorable Dorothy Nelson in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 1999-2000.

Prof. Katyal's scholarly work focuses on intellectual property, civil rights, and new media. Her current projects study the relationship between copyright enforcement and privacy (as applied to peer-to-peer technology); and the impact of artistic expression and parody on corporate identity, advertising, and brand equity.

Katyal is also the winner of two awards: her paper, "Exporting Identity," received a Dukeminier Award in 2002; her more recent paper, "The New Surveillance," was selected as the winning entry for the Yale Cybercrime Writing Competition for 2004.

Prof. Katyal is also the Chair of the AALS Art Law Section, 2004-05.

Ref: T06P0346