Internet intermediaries are key drivers in the development of the Internet as well as in distributing creative content. They host, locate and search for content and facilitate its distribution. Their increasing influence in recent years, as well as their evolving role has led to a debate regarding their liability in relation to online copyright infringement. This controversy is a direct result of the Internet’s phenomenal development – the web 2.0, user-generated content (UGC) websites, the wide spread of online streaming websites, and free hosting of large files are just some of the many examples of the constantly evolving online environment.
Internet intermediaries play a key role in both considerations of web content responsibility as well as in developing new ways to offer users legal access to copyright content – whether paying or free.
In addressing this controversial topic in a way that takes into account member states and various stakeholders, WIPO organized a 2005 Seminar on Copyright and Internet Intermediaries. As a result of subsequent developments – including new national legislation on the subject, as well as new solutions for the legal exploitation of copyright content – there is a need to reassess the issues at stake and to provide up-to-date information on the relationship between copyright and Internet intermediaries.
WIPO takes the lead in providing neutral and current information in this area. This includes the release of two studies:
- Role and Responsibility of the Internet Intermediaries in the Field of Copyright, by Professor Lilian Edwards
This study aims to identify the trends and principles governing the changing role of Internet intermediaries, summarizing the evolution of business models and outlining the complex issues to be considered in developing public policy in this field.
- Comparative Analysis of National Approaches of the Liability of the Internet Intermediaries, by Professors Daniel Seng and Ignacio Garrote Frenandez-Diez
In this study, Professors Seng and Garrote seek to identify the possible commonalities among different liability doctrines. The study is divided into two parts, the first consisting of a “Survey of National Legislation and Jurisprudence on the Liability of Internet Intermediaries in the Field of Copyright and Related Rights”, covering 30 jurisdictions1. The second contains a conclusion resulting from the Survey, which defines trends and commonalities in the treatment of the responsibility of Internet intermediaries.
WIPO organizes events that aim to facilitate discussion of the copyright issues related to Internet intermediaries among member states, stakeholders and civil society as a whole. WIPO also actively participates in other fora that address this theme.
During the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum, a Joint WIPO-ISOC Thematic Workshop on “Internet intermediaries in the Field of Copyright” took place in Geneva on May 18, 2011. The Forum also presented the partial results of the WIPO studies.
The WIPO Asia Regional Seminar on Copyright and Internet Intermediaries, held in Bangkok, Thailand on May 25 and 26, 2011, featured extensive discussions on this issue among Member States and stakeholders in the region.
The issue was also discussed at the side event organized jointly with the Internet Society (ISOC), which took place on June 22, 2011. Professor Lilian Edwards, author of one of the WIPO studies, made a presentation on the framework and current alternatives in the field of online copyright infringement. Several Member States also presented alternative approaches to address this issue.
WIPO jointly organized with ISOC a workshop during the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, from September 27 to 30, 2011, which also addressed the issue. The event has reached a wide array of stakeholders.
1The jurisdictions included in the survey are: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom and United States of America.