Hague releases declaration on intellectual privacy based on work of law’s Richards

More than 50 international organizations and global experts signed The Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age May 6. The declaration calls for immediate changes to intellectual property (IP) law and the removal of other barriers preventing larger and more equal access to data.


The document is based in part on the work of Neil Richards, JD, professor of law. Richards is a noted expert on data ethics and intellectual freedom and has published widely on issues related to privacy in the digital age.

The project began when the Association of European Research Libraries brought together 25 international experts, including Richards, last December to draft the declaration.

“I am proud to be both a signatory of the Hague Declaration, as well as a participant in its creation,” Richards said. “The declaration seeks to give researchers the ability to access facts, data and ideas to help us find answers to the massive social problems that universities around the world are working on.

“Intellectual property law was never intended to restrict access to facts and ideas, and the declaration charts a way forward for research and knowledge discovery. At a personal level, I am delighted and honored that the declaration recognizes the importance of intellectual privacy to safeguard the ways by which knowledge about the world is produced.”

According to the document’s drafters, improved treatments for diseases, answers to global issues such as climate change and billions in government savings are among the potential benefits to be gained, if the principles outlined in the declaration were to be adopted by governments, businesses and society.

The declaration states that copyright was never designed to regulate the sharing of facts, data and ideas — nor should it. The right to receive and impart information and ideas is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but the modern application of IP law often limits this right, even when these most simple building blocks of knowledge are used.

Richards’ latest book, “Intellectual Privacy: Rethinking Civil Liberties in the Digital Age,” was published this year by Oxford University Press.