Tuesday, November 11, 2008

WIPO broadcasting treaty resurrected?

Gwen Hinze at the EFF is wondering if WIPO broadcasting treaty is getting resurrected.

"Despite the fact that there has been no agreement on fundamental elements of the treaty after over 10 years of negotiations, in March there was a concerted move to resurrect negotiations, led by the European Community and Japan, with support from a set of other countries. At the September 2008 WIPO General Assembly meeting, a number of WIPO national delegates expressed support for finalizing treaty negotiations. Then in October, the long-standing WIPO Copyright Committee Chair, Mr. Jukka Liedes of Finland, produced an "informal paper"

describing the process of negotiations so far, and proffered several options which would result in continuing discussions and finalization of the treaty.

Yesterday, the Broadcasting Treaty was the main topic of discussion at this week's meeting of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright in Geneva. In spite of the enthusiastic efforts of treaty supporters, consensus still seems quite a long way off...

As in previous meetings, the most contentious issue was whether the treaty should give broadcasters and cablecasters exclusive rights over Internet retransmissions of broadcast and cablecast content...

The US delegation said that if discussions are to continue, the treaty should include webcasting. This is a reversal of the United States' most recent position, and harks back to a May 2006 meeting, where it was agreed to take out webcasting and divide the treaty into two tracks -- first, a treaty on broadcasting and cablecasting, and then second, an instrument dealing with broadcasting on the Internet -- webcasting or "netcasting", as the US had wanted, and "simulcasting", as supported by the EU...

In other words, the US apparently wants to go back to 2006 and bring webcasting or "netcasting" back in to the treaty. Finally, in case there was any doubt, the North American Broadcasters' Association repeated that their strong preference is for a treaty with exclusive rights for broadcasters and extending to Internet retransmissions.

EFF and a diverse group of public interest NGOs, libraries and major U.S. tech industry players continue to oppose the current treaty draft because it's not limited to signal protection, but would instead create a new layer of exclusive intellectual property rights for broadcasters and cablecasters that would harm access to knowledge and consumers' existing rights under national copyright law, endanger citizen broadcasting on the Internet, raise competition policy concerns and stifle technological innovation. Here and here is the joint statement presented by that group to WIPO this week. And here's EFF's briefing paper on our concerns with the current treaty draft."

I'm not surprised the US have changed their stance again on the broadcasting treaty and we can expect that position to harden once the Obama administration takes office, given the strong connections between the entertainment industry and the Democratic Party. The US is increasingly irritated with the pace of developments at WIPO, however, so don't be surprised to find that this new layer of IP rights may appear in or become implemented through forums like the forthcoming ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). Why drive it through the rough terrain at WIPO attempting to circumvent the objections of China, India, Brazil and the African nations when you can route it through the smooth agreeable highway paved by a self sellecting group like the US, EU, Japan and a handful of other nations with a positive IP balance of trade?

Update: The FFII are encouraging people to consider their (unsurprisingly negative) analysis of ACTA, since the EU Council of Ministers have just formally refused to release secret documents relating to the negotiations.

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