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Monday, June 25, 2007

WIPO Broadcasting Treaty deferred indefinitely

From Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Negotiations on the proposed WIPO Broadcasting Treaty ended on Friday with some welcome news. WIPO Member States agreed to postpone the high-level intergovernmental Diplomatic Conference at which the draft treaty could have been adopted, and have moved discussions back to regular committee meetings, down a notch from the last two "Special Session" meetings.

The Diplomatic Conference had been scheduled to take place in November 2007. It has now been postponed indefinitely until Member States reach agreement on the objectives, specific scope and object of protection of the proposed treaty. Given the vast differences between Member States' positions that emerged this week on core parts of the treaty, agreement does not look likely in the near future. Although the treaty is still on WIPO's agenda and by no means dead, the practical effect of today's decision is that it is no longer on the fast track. That's good news indeed for the Internet Community, including the over 1500 podcasters who signed an Open Letter to WIPO expressing concern about the treaty, which EFF delivered to WIPO this week. Member States refused to set a date for a diplomatic conference. They rejected proposals from the WIPO Copyright Committee Chair, Mr. Jukka Liedes, to postpone the diplomatic conference to November/December 2008, to convene a further "Special Session" of the WIPO Copyright Committee focused on finalizing the treaty, and to create a "modern framework" for "webcasting organizations". Instead, it was agreed that the subject of protection of broadcasting and cablecasting organizations would stay on the agenda and be discussed in regular sessions of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights. After the jump we have the full text of the conclusions of the meeting, together with notes from today's meeting.

Before a Diplomatic Conference can be convened, Member States must reach agreement on the core elements of a treaty - the objectives, specific scope and object of protection. While this week's informal session discussions may have helped clarify Member States' positions, it does not seem to have brought them closer. There is widespread agreement amongst many Member States, public interest NGOs. libraries and the tech industry that any treaty must focus on the issue of signal theft and not the creation of exclusive rights that will harm those communities. However, it's equally clear from this week that broadcasters will not settle for anything other than exclusive rights.

In the meantime, apart from pulling the plug on a diplomatic conference that seemed doomed for failure, as the delegate of India and Jamie Love of Knowledge Ecology International have both noted, today's decision also provides a much-needed opportunity for WIPO to start focusing on other initiatives, such as facilitating access to knowledge, evaluating the impact of legally-enforced technological protection measures on exceptions and limitations, and Chile's 2004 proposal for mandatory exceptions and limitations to copyright law for education, the disabled and libraries and archives. Now that would be good news indeed.
June 22, 2007.

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