Thursday, May 04, 2006

WIPO Carves up the Net and the Broadcast Spectrum

James Love has a great essay at the Huffington Post about the politics at WIPO over the broadcasting treaty.

"Don't bother reading this unless the words "new intellectual property right" and "the Internet" seem important when put together, because it is a twisted and complicated story. Even the key players are struggling to figure out what is going on. But like a lot of twisted and complicated things, it is important.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a specialized UN agency, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. This week it is holding a contentious five-day negotiation on a new Treaty, the purpose of which is to provide a new "protection" for "broadcasting and webcasting organizations."

What does this mean? WIPO is debating whether or not to create a new intellectual property right in information that is distributed over television, radio, cable television, or through any wired or wireless computer network, including the Internet. This is something different from copyright. Indeed, it is designed to benefit people who cannot get a copyright, because a work belongs to someone else (the person or group that created it), or because the information is in the public domain. The new right is not a "copyright," but a "broadcaster" or "webcaster" right. It is a bad idea when applied to television or radio, but a disaster if applied to the Internet."

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