This article argues that the cultural problem of the Information Society can be defined in terms of conditions determining the production, distribution and access to expression. The conceptualization of culture and cultural rights is explored by organizing cultural debates into three models, with a critical common ground then identified in each regarding the significance of the concern for expression. This problematization then serves as a way of addressing a number of critical dimensions in the policy debates of the Information Society emerging in world trade agreements. It is held that cultural rights and the conditions of expression can be articulated as a product of forms of information policy, such as: intellectual property laws, universal service and access to critical features of networks in the production and distribution of expression; the number of information providers, producers and distributors favored by competition policies; and the structure of positive and negative information rights implemented as content regulation under constitutional, statutory and regulatory obligations. The article examines the treatment of this set of information policies in a few emerging world trade agreements for the information sector, and the analysis concludes that the current world trade paradigm of the Information Society stands to transform profoundly the structure of content in the information age in favor of concentration of expression under proprietary governance. The implications of this change and criteria for evaluating cultural rights and information rights are provided.
International Communication Gazette, February 1998 vol. 60 no. 1 47-76