Friday, June 22, 2007

WIPO Broadcasting Treaty - "ends not with a bang but a wimper"

Apologies to T.S. Eliot.

It looks as if the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty will go to the more remote wards of WIPO for a while and maybe forever, potentially along with the once proposed data base treaty and other DNR projects in the WIPO annals. Reports indicate that the Chairman, Mr. Liedes, used heroic efforts to resuscitate this project and to reschedule a diplomatic conference for sometime in 2008 - but did not succeed.

The main objections - which were sufficient to block it - came from the Asian and African groups as well as Brazil and India. The EU and Japan expressed some support but did not fight hard to keep the dipcon alive and the USA and Canada apparently were silent - perhaps because there was no need to be explicit.

So maybe WIPO will move on to something more responsive to actual needs in the copyright world.

The next SCCR meeting in November or December of this year (which will be a regular meeting and not a special one devoted to this topic only) may deal with this issue - but other issues could be on the agenda as well. Issues such as limitations and exceptions or collective administration - both of which are very important at both the domestic and international level, and both of which lend themselves to possible treatment as a treaty.

If there is a need to stop signal theft in certain countries - and there very well may be - then perhaps the passage of time and a new approach could result in addressing that need specifically - but without conflating that particular problem with an open ended set of new exclusive rights that add additional layers, costs, TPMs and DRMs while detracting from fair use rights, access to knowledge and the public domain.

The document tabled today by the Chair actually tried to put webcasting BACK into the treaty on the agenda and for a dipcon next year. Whatever the strategy, it didn't work. This was too much even for the USA. There was no evident support for dealing with webcasting.

Apparently, numerous delegations restated that whatever is discussed in the future should be "signal based" - unlike the non-paper that went nowhere this week.

Details of the demise of the dipcon have started to emerge from the redoubtable Jamie Love of KEI (now available here) and will surely follow from the other NGO reps from EFF, IP-Justice, Public Knowledge, etc. who played a major role in this drama, in part by making it at least somewhat visible and transparent.

And, of course, the ever excellent IP-Watch was quick with a detailed posting by William New that includes comments from the Chair - likening this week's set back to a mere "cramp in the leg" in the course of a "marathon" and from Michael Keplinger, a Deputy Director General of WIPO and until recently a US official, who said “I think we have made tremendous progress..” As reported by Mr. New:
Keplinger, who came on board about six months ago, said there have only been six months of actual negotiations and that members are still learning about the subject. The previous 8 years were “discussions,” during which members were learning about the topic, he said.
I have a feeling that there will be some long term lessons to be learned from all of this by all concerned...


I'll keep updating this as details are confirmed and links are available - for example from the resourceful Petra at IP-Justice and Gwen at EFF.


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