Summary of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) (1996)
The WCT is a special agreement under the Berne Convention. Any Contracting Party (even if it is not bound by the Berne Convention) must comply with the substantive provisions of the 1971 (Paris) Act of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886) . Furthermore, the Treaty mentions two subject matters to be protected by copyright,
(i) computer programs, whatever may be the mode or form of their expression, and
(ii) compilations of data or other material (“databases”), in any form, which by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents constitute intellectual creations. (Where a database does not constitute such a creation, it is outside the scope of this Treaty.)
As to the rights of authors, the Treaty deals with three:
(i) the right of distribution,
(ii) the right of rental, and
(iii) the right of communication to the public.
Each of them is an exclusive right, subject to certain limitations and exceptions. Not all of the limitations or exceptions are mentioned in the following:
- the right of distribution is the right to authorize the making available to the public of the original and copies of a work through sale or other transfer of ownership,
- the right of rental is the right to authorize commercial rental to the public of the original and copies of three kinds of works:
(i) computer programs (except where the computer program itself is not the essential object of the rental),
(ii) cinematographic works (but only in cases where commercial rental has led to widespread copying of such works materially impairing the exclusive right of reproduction), and
(iii) works embodied in phonograms as determined in the national law of the Contracting Parties (except for countries that since April 15, 1994, have in force a system of equitable remuneration for such rental),
- the right of communication to the public is the right to authorize any communication to the public, by wire or wireless means, including “the making available to the public of works in a way that the members of the public may access the work from a place and at a time individually chosen by them.” The quoted expression covers in particular on-demand, interactive communication through the Internet.
The Treaty obliges the Contracting Parties to provide legal remedies against the circumvention of technological measures (e.g., encryption) used by authors in connection with the exercise of their rights and against the removal or altering of information, such as certain data that identify works or their authors, necessary for the management (e.g., licensing, collecting and distribution of royalties) of their rights (“rights management information”).
The Treaty obliges each Contracting Party to adopt, in accordance with its legal system, the measures necessary to ensure the application of the Treaty. In particular, the Contracting Party must ensure that enforcement procedures are available under its law so as to permit effective action against any act of infringement of rights covered by the Treaty. Such action must include expeditious remedies to prevent infringement and remedies which constitute a deterrent to further infringements.
The Treaty establishes an Assembly of the Contracting Parties whose main task is to deal with matters concerning the maintenance and development of the Treaty, and it entrusts to the Secretariat of WIPO the administrative tasks concerning the Treaty.
The Treaty entered into force on March 6, 2002. The Director General of WIPO is the depositary of the Treaty.
This Treaty is open to States members of WIPO and to the European Community. The Assembly constituted by the Treaty may decide to admit other intergovernmental organizations to become party to the Treaty.