World Intellectual Property Organization

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        ORIGINAL: English

        DATE: November 17, 1999




Geneva, December 8 and 9, 1999


Study prepared by:

Mrs. Tarja Koskinen-Olsson, Chief Executive Officer,
KOPIOSTO, Helsinki;

and Dr. Daniel Gervais, Acting Director, Rightsholder Relations,
Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. (CCC), Danvers (United States of America)



By Mrs. Tarja Koskinen-Olsson and Dr. Daniel Gervais

1. The Possible Role for WIPO

      The importance of electronic commerce is now well known and experts evaluate the e-commerce market will grow from US$20 billion in 1998 to US$320 billion by 2002. Probably the most exciting form of e-commerce is the sale of bits sold in packets representing works protected by copyright: e-books, e-journals, music, films, photographs etc. Logically, since most literary and artistic works can be digitized or are created digitally, the Internet should be the best way to access such works (as opposed to buying packaged physical products). It seems that within a few years, most purchases of copyrighted material, in particular in the business-to-business environment, could be done easier and better online. This will also give creators worldwide the ability to access and reuse material available on global digital networks.

      WIPO could play two crucial roles in this area. First, WIPO could be a driving force behind the adoption of norms and standards-legal and technical-which are necessary for the harmonious growth of e-commerce. Many of the objectives of WIPO are directly relevant to the regulation and development of the e-commerce infrastructure.

      Second, WIPO could leverage its investment in WIPONet to give creators and users of intellectual property in all its member countries the possibility to get information on and license the use of protected works.

      We will review the possible aims of efforts in these two areas and then discuss how they could be implemented.

2. A Global Intellectual Property Infrastructure for Electronic Commerce

      While it is true that e-commerce and the technology behind it is evolving very fast, and that no solution found today is certain to survive, there are a number of known facts:

      (a) Some of the legal issues surrounding e-commerce may be solved by market forces, there is a clear need to address basic, well-identified questions in a forum where all countries can participate, get the latest information from the market and around the world, express their views, shape the emerging policy at the multilateral level and inform their own policy-making process at home;

      (b) Identification of material traded over the Internet is necessary. The many efforts underway to achieve this identification are testimony to this need. There is at present no observatory or forum in which these efforts can be discussed by policy makers, and where best practices encouraged, supported and developed;

      (c) Standards are required for e-commerce tools such as metadata. What are the rules of the electronic road? Emerging technical standards such as Extensible Markup Language (XML) allow content providers to code their e-commerce metadata into the files traded over the Internet; again, there is no global forum to discuss these options.

3. Extension of WIPONet

      (a) There are many efforts to create multimedia rights clearance centers in many parts of the world. There seems to be a need to observe those systems and allow those countries that wish to develop a support policy for such centers to have access to the latest technical, legal and other information; standard rights clearance modules could be developed to ensure that all countries can have rapid access to this technology, thus allowing their creators to license the use of their creations worldwide and get the right to use preexisting material.

      (b) Clearly, authors, publishers and users would benefit greatly from interoperable centers: centers in each country or region that could speak to other similar centers in other countries. This would foster the creation of new works of "world quality" in more countries, but, more importantly facilitate access to works now known and used only in their country or region of origin, also including folklore-related works. For this to happen, interoperability is required.

      (c) The creation of such facilities to license material protected by copyright over the Internet requires access to the network and to the necessary technology. Access in all parts of the world could be part of the mission of WIPONet, ensuring connectivity and access to copyright information throughout the world;

4. The Way Forward

Legal and standards-related issues

      What is needed, first and foremost, is a forum where information can be made available to policy makers and solutions freely discussed and considered. Part of this task would be to gather information on the work being done on identifiers, metadata, and related activities, to have current information all in one place and to allow policy makers to discuss those options, take an active part in its making at the global level and enhance their own policy making efforts nationally.

      It would seem that WIPO could act as that forum, possibly in conjunction with the INDECS (Interoperability of Data in E-Commerce Systems) Project or similar initiatives. The aim of INDECS is precisely to achieve a consensus on the key issues of creation identifiers and related metadata for electronic commerce of material protected by copyright.

A Global Rights Information and Licensing Network

      The development of technical standards is a necessary step. Yet, technology to support the creation of national (or regional) multimedia copyright clearance centers would also behoove an organization like WIPO. It would foster the creation of more and better material in all countries and fulfill one of the great new functions of these new global networks: give access to works from all parts of the world to users on the entire planet. The use of WIPONet could be a logical extension of that new network to cover all major intellectual property rights.

      In this scenario, WIPO would act as a "Master Node" in a network of copyright information centers, some of them operated by government (as part of the national intellectual property office or institute), others privately owned. There may be other Master or High-level Nodes in the networks. These Nodes would have responsibility for the operation of the network, its operations and integrity of the data. This "WIPONet-Copyright" could interface with similar networks. This could happen where a high-quality external rights database already exists for, e.g., a specialized media. There are currently large rights databases for film, print and music, although none of these databases is truly global at this stage.

      These Master Nodes would contain rights data concerning all categories of works protected by copyright and related rights and could, where appropriate, serve as licensing agents. Software would also be provided to create National Nodes in all interested countries. This could be no more than a plug-in program that could work in a secure way within standard browsers such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.

      These national nodes would be responsible for gathering rights data at the national level (as is commonly done for industrial property rights), and where appropriate to make those works available for licensing to other participants in the network, thus making the work in question known and available world-wide. The national nodes would also provide information on foreign material and, again where appropriate, offer licensing solutions. Naturally, depending on the circumstances in each country, national nodes could involve private industry and partners, such as content providers.

      In addition to its other functions, the Master Node could offer to host some of the data necessary for the operation of certain National Nodes, temporarily or for the longer term. It could also serve as a back up in case of loss of data.

      Rights owners and users would interface with this network at the national level or where appropriate through a Master Node. Rights owners would be able to add data concerning their works and rights, while users would easily obtain information about existing works and rights and be able in many cases to obtain licenses to use such works in their own country, for instance to create multimedia productions.

      In our view, WIPO has clearly the knowledge, depth of expertise and many of the resources necessary to fulfill these objectives and make e-commerce of copyright rights a reality for creators and users in all countries of the world. It is also in the best position of any organization to do so.

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