WIPO Broadcasting Treaty on Hold

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has decided to indefinitely postpone a November 2007 Diplomatic Conference at which the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty could have been approved.

Here’s an excerpt from the EFF’s "Blogging WIPO: Broadcasting Treaty Deferred Indefinitely" posting:

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. . . .

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.

Why is this important? Here’s an excerpt from Cory Doctorow’s Boing Boing posting on the subject ("Broadcast Treaty Wounded and Dying!"):

The broadcast treaty creates a copyright-like "broadcast right," for the entities that make works available. So while copyright goes to the people who create things, broadcast rights go to people who have no creative contribution at all. Here’s how it would work: say you recorded some TV to use in your classroom. Copyright lets you do this—copyright is limited by fair use. But the broadcast right would stop you—you’d need to navigate a different and disjointed set of exceptions to broadcast rights, or the broadcaster could sue you.

That’s just for openers. The broadcast right also covers works in the public domain that no one has a copyright in—and even Creative Commons works where the creator has already given her permission for sharing! You can’t use anything that’s broadcast unless you get permission from the caster. What’s more, they’re trying to extend this to the net, making podcasting and other communications where the hoster isn’t the copyright holder (that is, where you create the podcast but someone else hosts it) into a legal minefield.