Thursday, September 14, 2006

WIPO Steamrolls Member States and Insists on Controversial Broadcast Treaty

The Broadcast Treaty is on course to drastically affect the way the Internet works. If you enjoy this vibrant new culture of podcasts, blogs and shared media, take the time to follow some of the links, understand the issues, and most importantly, tell your friends.

September 11th - 13th in Geneva, Switzerland: WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organisation - see below) attempts to finalise the new Broadcast Treaty, a project which has been going on for nine years. The Broadcast Treaty is intended to do things such as prevent signal theft., i.e. someone illegally taking your TV program and retransmitting it. Some WIPO members have been trying to 'add in' the Internet to the new Treaty, and at this late stage they have introduced podcasting to their legislation.

This is where the UK Podcasters Association comes in. UKPA has been campaigning for three months with the Irish and German podcast groups, the Open Rights group in the UK, and EFF in the United States, and representing thousands of concerned Internet users, EFF attorney Gwen Hinze presented a joint statement to WIPO on why podcasting should not be included in the Broadcast Treaty.

UKPA is part of an extraordinarily broad coalition against this version of the Treaty, alongside technology companies, NGOs, and member states such as India, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Iran, Nigeria and South Africa. Even the corporation-dominated United States eventually stated its opposition to calling for a diplomatic conference based on the existing draft - although for entirely different reasons than developing countries.

The main arguments against this extension of the Treaty into the Internet are that it gives new, wide-ranging and long-lasting rights to broadcasters over Internet content; it does not respect the Creative Commons system of content licencing which has been adapted by 49 countries and used for millions of works worldwide, including podcasts and blogs; and it threatens to impose severe restrictions on the development of technology and the personal use of media.

It also creates a whole set of problems for new technologies. Intel's Global Policy Director Jeffrey Lawrence explained how the treaty will prevent the roll out of home networking technologies because permission will be required from broadcasting companies for consumers to access and use the cable and television programs that they have already paid for in their own homes. Verizon Vice-President Sarah Deutsch said that Internet service providers and other intermediaries also face significant legal liability under the treaty for transmitting programming. "A broadcaster's right of control should stop at the front door of the home," she said.

IP Justice Executive Director Robin Gross:

"It is already illegal to steal cable television under existing law in all countries. This proposal, however, will give broadcasting companies the power to control what consumers can do with those programs.

This creates a problem for a growing number of consumers who use technology to copy, edit, comment on, and re-use media in otherwise lawful ways. Internet bloggers and websites such as YouTube where people post snippets of media programming based on copyright law's fair use privilege are also at risk. Since this is not copyright, but rather a brand new type of IP right, traditional fair use privileges would not apply to protect consumers. Television programs like Jon Stewart's "Daily Show," which uses short video clips of politician's speeches and other news to provide political commentary on them, can also be prevented from re-using the footage if this treaty is passed.

One of the most dangerous provisions in the treaty is the proposal to grant broadcasters the right to lock up public domain programming using technological restrictions that it will then be illegal to bypass in order to access the public domain information."

Despite lengthy objections, at the end of this three-day session, Chairman Liedes dismissed all arguments against the Treaty, and

"...dropped the gavel to conclude the meeting after announcing there would be no time for further discussion on the controversial treaty.

Rather than address legitimate concerns about theft of broadcast signals, the treaty would create 8 new intellectual property rights over broadcasts that are so broad they will stifle technological innovation, freedom of expression and access to knowledge." (RG)

Despite this, we at UKPA and the other EU podcast groups take heart from the fact that we have come together with so many different and disparate bodies, groups and corporations agreeing to a cohesive position - this is a real achievement. The Broadcast Treaty is a direct threat to much of the culture we all share, and this has created exceptional unity.

UKPA is going to continue to lobby the UK Government to bring pressure on WIPO, via our elected representatives at national level, to challenge what we consider to be an autocratic and dangerous decision. What we share with many thousands worldwide is the view that podcasting is an important new medium which deserves proper consideration in any leglislative framework.

About WIPO

World Intellectual Property Organisation is one of the most powerful international bodies in the world. It controls the regulation of Intellectual Property - ideas - and it occupies a uniquely powerful position in important development areas such as patents and copyrights, and this impacts upon new technologies, media content, and transmission rights.

WIPO is composed of many parts: broadcasters, technology and internet companies, NGOs, public interest groups, and member nations. WIPO is a United Nations mandated organisation - its decisions pass into international law at the diplomatic level and are internationally binding. The organisation has been run by on man for over 10 years - Chairman Liedes of Finland, sometimes referred to as "chairman for life".

The WIPO General Assembly will decide whether to accept Liedes’ recommendation at its annual meeting which takes place 25 September – 3 October 2006.

More Information on WIPO Broadcasting Treaty:

Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Open Rights Group:

IP Justice:

Chairman's current draft proposal [SCCR/15/2]

Cory Doctorow on TWiT:

Creative Commons:


Fax Your MP:


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