The field of copyright and related rights has expanded enormously with the technological progress of the last several decades, which has brought new ways of spreading creations by such forms of worldwide communication as satellite broadcast and compact discs. Dissemination of works via the Internet is but the latest development which raises new questions concerning copyright.
WIPO is deeply involved in the ongoing international debate to shape new standards for copyright protection in cyberspace. The organization administers the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonogram Treaty (known together as the "Internet Treaties"), which set down international norms aimed at preventing unauthorized access to and use of creative works on the Internet or other digital networks.
The WCT deals with protection for authors of literary and artistic works, such as writings and computer programs; original databases; musical works; audiovisual works; works of fine art and photographs; whereas the WPPT deals with protection for authors rights of performers and producers of phonograms.
The purpose of the two treaties is to update and supplement the major existing WIPO treaties on copyright and related rights, primarily in order to respond to developments in technology and in the marketplace. Since the Berne Convention and the Rome Convention were adopted or lastly revised more than a quarter century ago, new types of works, new markets, and new methods of use and dissemination have evolved. Among other things, both the WCT and the WPPT address the challenges posed by today's digital technologies, in particular the dissemination of protected material over digital networks such as the Internet. For this reason, they are often referred to as the "Internet treaties."
Both treaties require countries to provide a framework of basic rights, allowing creators to control and/or be compensated for the various ways in which their creations are used and enjoyed by others. Most importantly, the treaties ensure that the owners of those rights will continue to be adequately and effectively protected when their works are disseminated through new technologies and communications systems such as the Internet. The treaties thus clarify that existing rights continue to apply in the digital environment. They also create new online rights. To maintain a fair balance of interests between the owners of rights and the general public, the treaties further clarify that countries have reasonable flexibility in establishing exceptions or limitations to rights in the digital environment. Countries may, in appropriate circumstances, grant exceptions for uses deemed to be in the public interest, such as for non-profit educational and research purposes.
The treaties also require countries to provide not only the rights themselves, but also two types of technological adjuncts to the rights. These are intended to ensure that rightholders can effectively use technology to protect their rights and to license their works online. The first, known as the "anti-circumvention" provision, tackles the problem of "hacking": it requires countries to provide adequate legal protection and effective remedies against the circumvention of technological measures (such as encryption) used by rightholders to protect their rights. The second type of technological adjuncts safeguards the reliability and integrity of the online marketplace by requiring countries to prohibit the deliberate alteration or deletion of electronic "rights management information": that is, information which accompanies any protected material, and which identifies the work, its creators, performer, or owner, and the terms and conditions for its use.