World Intellectual Property Organization

Electronic Commerce Programs and Activities

As the Internet continues its remarkable expansion, its capacity to disseminate information, knowledge and content has thrust the intellectual property system to the center of the debate over the future shape of the online world. In this new and rapidly changing environment, information and knowledge are increasingly the source of value; hence the intellectual property system - the body of law protecting creations of the mind - is crucial in maintaining a stable and equitable foundation for the development of the digital society.

While the intellectual property system will play a critical role in shaping the digital world, the Internet will have a profound effect on the system itself. The long-term influences are as yet unclear. What is immediately apparent, however, is that this new medium presents a host of complex opportunities and challenges for the intellectual property community.

As the international intellectual property organization, WIPO has launched a far-reaching program of activities - the WIPO Digital Agenda - which reflect and respond to the influence of the Internet and digital technologies on the intellectual property system, and vice-versa, in the coming years. The Organization is committed to formulating appropriate responses aimed at encouraging the dissemination and exploitation of creative works and knowledge on the Internet, as well as at protecting the rights of their creators. In the constantly evolving digital environment, this is a truly unique challenge.

Issues that are covered by the Digital Agenda (see below) include the challenge of the digital divide, the application of intellectual property law in transactions via the Internet, the impact of the Internet and digital technologies on the areas of copyright and related rights, trademarks and domain names, and patents, as well as dispute resolution.

The WIPO Digital Agenda was launched in September 1999 by the Director General of WIPO at the WIPO International Conference on Electronic Commerce and Intellectual Property. It was approved later that month by WIPO's Member States at their General Assembly.

To keep the public fully informed about its activities under the Digital Agenda, WIPO has created a website dedicated to electronic commerce issues. This web site, maintained in English, French and Spanish, provides extensive information regarding WIPO programs in the areas concerned, background papers on substantive issues, and a comprehensive calender for meetings. Information updates regarding WIPO electronic commerce program activities and meetings will also be sent by e-mail to interested parties on a quarterly basis.

The WIPO Digital Agenda

1. Broaden the participation of developing countries through the use of WIPONET and other means for

  • access to IP information
  • participation in global policy formulation
  • opportunities to use their IP assets in ecommerce.

2. Promote the entry into force of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) before December 2001.

3. Promote adjustment of the international legislative framework to facilitate ecommerce through

  • the extension of the principles of the WPPT to audiovisual performances
  • the adaptation of broadcasters' rights to the digital era
  • progress towards a possible international instrument on the protection of databases.

4. Implement the recommendations of the Report of the WIPO Domain Name Process and pursue compatibility between identifiers in the real and virtual worlds by establishing rules for mutual respect and eliminating contradictions between the domain name system and the intellectual property system.

5. Develop appropriate principles with the aim of establishing, at the appropriate time at the international level, rules for determining the circumstances of intellectual property liability of Online Service Providers, compatible within a framework of general liability rules for OSPs.

6. Promote adjustment of the institutional framework for facilitating the exploitation of intellectual property in the public interest in a global economy and on a global medium through administrative coordination and, where desired by users, the implementation of

practical systems in respect of

  • the interoperability and interconnection of electronic copyright management systems and their metadata (i.e, the information about the copyrighted material stored in these systems)
  • the online licensing of the digital expression of cultural heritage
  • the online administration of IP disputes.

7. Introduce and develop online procedures for the filing and administration of international applications for the PCT, the Madrid System and the Hague Agreement at the earliest possible date.

8. Study and, where appropriate, respond in a timely and effective manner to the need for practical measures designed to improve the management of cultural and other digital assets at the international level by, for example, investigating the desirability and efficacy of

  • model procedures and forms for global licensing of digital assets
  • the notarization of electronic documents
  • the introduction of a procedure for the certification of websites for compliance with appropriate intellectual property standards and procedures.

9. Study any other emerging intellectual property issues related to electronic commerce and, where appropriate, develop norms in relation to such issues.

10. Coordinate with other international organizations in the formulation of appropriate international positions on horizontal issues affecting IP, in particular

  • the validity of electronic contracts
  • jurisdiction.

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