For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Chasm or consensus? Putting a spin on the SCCR

There is more churn in the process of polishing up the oft-neglected and little loved topic of IP protection for broadcasters, says the IPKat.

Right: in this exciting digital age, let us not forget the contribution made to broadcasting by the humble cat's whisker

The Rome Convention on the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (1961) has become quite topical of late, following the emergence of radically new types of communications and of content distribution over the internet, while signal piracy has been a growth area with its own momentum. This being so, WIPO reckoned it was time to review and upgrade current international standards, to ensure that elusive "appropriate balance between the different interests of all stakeholders and those of the general public" which will enable WIPO to achieve the Holy Grail of every UN agency, that of being truly all things to all men.

To this end a WIPO press release, "Negotiators Decide to Continue Discussions on Updating Protection of Broadcasting Organizations" (Geneva, 25 June 2007, PR/498/2007), was issued at the beginning of the week. It tells the IPKat that

"Member states of ... WIPO have decided that further discussions were required on various aspects of a treaty on the protection of broadcasting organizations before moving to a diplomatic conference. The decision came at the conclusion of the second special session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) from June 18 to 22, 2007 which had been mandated by the WIPO General Assembly in October 2006.

In October 2006, the WIPO General Assembly called for two special sessions of the SCCR to be held in 2007 “to clarify the outstanding issues.” The General Assembly decision said that “the sessions of the SCCR should aim to agree and finalize, on a signal-based approach, the objectives, specific scope and object of protection with a view to submitting to the diplomatic conference a revised basic proposal, which will amend the agreed relevant parts of the Revised Draft Basic Proposal (document SCCR 15/2).”

In that decision the General Assembly also decided that a diplomatic conference would be held from November 19 to December 7, 2007 to conclude a treaty on the protection of traditional broadcasting organizations, including cablecasting organizations, if agreement on new text was achieved during the special sessions. The first of these sessions was held in January 2007. The discussions undertaken in the two special sessions were confined to the protection of traditional broadcasting organizations and cablecasting organizations. This followed a decision by the 14th session of the SCCR from 1 to 5 May, 2006, to examine questions of webcasting and simulcasting, on a separate track, at a later date.

At the close of the June meeting, the Committee said that the work of the past years served as a firm foundation on which to develop balanced solutions that effectively address the growing problems of broadcast signal piracy at the international level. The Committee recommended that the WIPO General Assembly take note of the current status of the work; and acknowledged that progress was made towards better understanding of the positions of the various stakeholders. It was proposed that the subject of the broadcasters treaty remain on the agenda of the SCCR, and that a diplomatic conference be convened only after agreement on objectives, specific scope and object of protection has been achieved. Delegates also applauded the commitment and guidance of the Chair of the SCCR, Mr. Jukka Liedes.

Left: machine for disseminating mixed messages

Mr. Liedes acknowledged progress made in moving the process forward and said that more time was needed to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion. He thanked all delegations for their flexibility and constructive engagement in the discussions which, he said, were key to a successful outcome.

Mr. Michael Keplinger, WIPO Deputy Director General who oversees copyright issues said “member states expressed their strong interest in continuing to strive towards achieving the objectives of protection on a signal based approach as mandated by the WIPO General Assembly in 2006. The process to date has gone a long way in building understanding on these very technical and complex issues.” He further noted, “member states are now actively engaged in these discussions and a great deal of work has been done on these questions but a number of key issues still need to be ironed out.”

Taken at face value, this sounds quite positive. But what does it all mean? IP Justice gives quite a different account. Its heading reads "Broadcast Treaty Will Be Dead for a Long Time"; the blog adds:

"Today member states of WIPO decided that there will be neither a diplomatic conference on the proposed Broadcast Treaty, nor any more Special Sessions of the Standing Committee on Copyrights and Related Rights (SCCR).

Till the end the Chair Yukka Liedes and the WIPO Secretariat intensely tried to keep the process on a way, at last by proposing that member states may propose to the General Assembly to decide to hold two more Special Sessions of the SCCR and to postpone the Diplomatic Conference to 2008. Finally member states disagreed in all this points. No more Special Sessions will be asked for, no new time frame for a Diplomatic Conference was set and the Broadcast Treaty will only remain on the regular agenda of the SCCR. At the end India also said that there are many more very important points to discuss at the SCCR. So the Broadcast Treaty most likely will be only one of several other agenda items of the SCCR. Decision of SCCR Special 2: Changes compared to the Chair’s draft. The last decision on this will be taken by the General Assembly this year but it is very unlikely that there will be any surprise there.

That the Diplomatic Conference will be called off for this year already was clear after an informal night session when several member states proposed to call off the conference after seeing not any progress in respect of finding a consensus on a new draft proposal.

By their decision the member states ended a over nine years process which was becoming more and more a dead end. It’s a real good day for Internet-Users, Podcasters, consumers in general and in developing countries in particular. The new treaty has threaten to regulate Internet transmissions of broadcasts, to give exclusive rights for non-creative works and to protect broadcasters TPMs which has threaten not only to impose Technology Mandates but also to hinder consumers in making fair uses of broadcasts".
Could these reports both be covering the same event, the puzzled Kat wonders. Merpel adds, it's depressing how much these reports both focus on the machinery of policy review rather than on the matters of principle that are supposed to require our input.

See also Digital Media Wire, IP-Watch, Follow the Media, Hollywood Reporter and Reclaim the Media
The real Rome Convention here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The treaty was argued to be necessary to address signal piracy, yet seemed to be focussed on creating or extending a new IP right.

The difference was rather neatly caught for Merpel in this presented by digital rights group EDRI:

"the General Assembly gave a mandate to prepare only a signal based treaty. Unfortunately, there seems to be no consensus what that actually means. EDRI’s proposal of how a simple test for this criteria could be formed would be the following: A treaty is truly signal based, if and only if there is absolutely no need and use to include a clause for the term of the protection."

As I understand it, support even on the proposed underlying principles of the treaty had steadily crumbled in the face of questions like this.

Of course it wasn't helped by Mr Jukka disappearing away home to spend midsummer night communing with the Nordic trees; but realistically, putting Humpty together again was probably already beyond all the King's horses and King's men.

Which is why they're now going to go off and try and find something more productive to do.

-- J. Heald

Subscribe to the IPKat's posts by email here

Just pop your email address into the box and click 'Subscribe':