Tuesday, June 15, 2004

My friend John Naughton is not impressed with WIPO's plans for a broadcasting treaty.

"When I first saw the draft (it was published in April), I assumed it must have been written by executives at Fox, NBC and other US TV networks while high on cocaine, because it read like a wish-list of everything a failing industry could want to protect it from the future.

It is a control-freak's charter. This is predictable, because an obsession with control has worked its way into the industry's DNA. Broadcasting is a few-to-many medium: a small number of content-providers decide what is to be offered, produce the content, and push it to passive consumers. Central to the broadcasting ethos is a desire to control the viewer, to restrict choice to the menus chosen by the industry - like Skinnerian pigeons pecking at coloured levers to obtain food...

...Experience over the last decade has shown us how established industries react when they are threatened by new technology. First they go into denial. Then they resort to legal countermeasures - which invariably fail. Finally they nobble legislators, seeking to persuade them to enact laws that will protect the old business models.

Which is where the draft broadcast treaty comes in. The great thing about Wipo, from the point of corporate lobbyists and their allies in certain national governments, is that it offers more bangs per buck. Instead of having to petition 50 or 100 national legislatures, you persuade Wipo to propose a draft treaty, which is submitted to a diplomatic conference and ratified. Then all the signatories are obliged to do what you want."

Cory Doctorow (cory@eff.org), Wendy Seltzer (wendy@eff.org) and David Tannenbaum (davidt@public-domain.org) attended the meeting that John refers to, as part of a public interest delegation and did a terrific job of making noteson the proceedings. The notes provide the first direct public insight into the making of international intellectual property regulations and makes fascinating reading.

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