Ibero-American Broadcasters Signal Need for Change
by José Manuel Gómez Bravo, Corporate Director of Intellectual Property, PRISA; General Coordinator of the Permanent Representation of the Alliance of Latin American Intellectual Property Broadcasters (ARIPI); and President of the International Observatory of Intellectual Property (ORIPI)
In Latin America and Spain, as in other parts of the world, broadcasting is a key vehicle for mass communications. Broadcasters not only fulfill a range of public information and education services, they also create employment and drive the market for content creation and its distribution across TV networks. The new digital technologies that broadcasters use today are creating unprecedented opportunities for viewers to access a wide range of high quality content on multiple platforms and at affordable prices. These same technologies, however, also leave broadcasting organizations exposed to huge problems of signal piracy both within and across borders; a global problem compounded by outdated international broadcasting rules.
The Ibero-American Broadcasters for Copyright Alliance (ARIPI), formed in September 2011, brings together broadcasting organizations from across Latin America and Spain. The broadcasting companies that make up ARIPI operate in 18 countries which share a common language, cultural traditions and aspirations. Our aim is to highlight the need to make sure that the international legal framework governing broadcasting is updated and brought into line with present-day operating realities.
The need for a modern legal framework
The international rules currently in place, laid out in the 1961 Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations belong to another era. Broadcasting has evolved beyond all recognition since the 1960s. The prevailing international rules do not adequately protect broadcasters operating in today’s digitized and technologically advanced world. The Rome Convention, for example, only protects free-to-air transmissions. It offers no protection with respect to transmissions via cable, the internet or mobile networks which are now a common feature of broadcasting.
The scourge of signal piracy
The broadcasting companies that make up ARIPI, like broadcasters elsewhere, are facing growing problems of signal piracy. Broadcasters invest significant resources in making it possible for programs to reach the public. Our activities involve planning programming schedules, securing the rights over the content we transmit and editing and promoting it prior to transmission. This is a large-scale undertaking involving substantial financial, logistical and technical resources. When signal piracy occurs we are robbed of the opportunity to get a return on our investment, for example, through advertising. This is a particular problem when it comes to broadcasting sporting events. We pay huge sums for the right to broadcast top-tier sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games, only to see our returns eroded by the unauthorized use of our broadcast signals. On top of this, we have few effective legal means to stop these damaging practices which harm not only our interests, but also those of the sporting organizations responsible for hosting these events who rely on the sale of broadcasting rights and, ultimately, those of our viewers.
Broadcasters not only serve as carriers of information, entertainment and educational services, but are also content creators in their own right. Like other content creators we have a vested interest in seeing our rights protected because when broadcast signals are protected, so too are the rights associated with program content.
Signal piracy explained
Signal piracy takes place whenever an encrypted broadcast signal is decoded without authorization through, for example, non-payment of a subscription fee. It can take a physical form involving unauthorized recording and re-transmission of broadcasts on video tapes, DVDs or USB sticks or it can be virtual, involving unauthorized distribution of signals over the air for re-transmission via the Internet. As broadcasters, we welcome the emergence of new media platforms and are happy that our viewers have an ever-expanding range of devices from which to view our programs. We should, however, have the legal means to prevent the unauthorized commercial re-transmission of our broadcasts over new media. Our broadcast signals are a major asset that we must protect. They embody the significant economic, creative and entrepreneurial effort we invest in broadcasting.
The largely unfettered growth in signal piracy, fuelled by the proliferation of enabling technologies, such as the Internet and fiber-optics (which has given rise to expanded broadband penetration), is undermining our ability to deliver the quality and range (news, entertainment, information) of programming that viewers want.
The threat of signal piracy goes well beyond our legitimate interest as private companies to generate a return on the substantial investments we make and the industry’s long-term financial sustainability. Broadcasters play a key public service role in terms of driving social cohesion, reaffirming cultural identity and informing the general public. The importance of broadcasting as a vehicle for social expression within a democratic society cannot be overstated. Broadcasting organizations in Latin America have supported the democratization of the continent, helping to consolidate national identity and reinforcing basic notions of Latin culture while maintaining our aboriginal traditions and values.
Our broadcasting activities are not only designed to entertain, they seek to inform, educate and promote cultural exchange and understanding. We have fought long and hard to maintain our independence and freedom as broadcasters in Latin America and we firmly believe that the surest way to secure the invaluable public service role of broadcasting, and the industry’s long-term economic viability, is to create the conditions that allow broadcasters to obtain a fair return on the substantial investments they make.
For these reasons we are joining together with our counterparts in other regions to urge policymakers to lose no time in finalizing an international agreement that offers global, comprehensive, fair and balanced protection for broadcasters around the globe. The time is ripe, the time is now.
Launched in September 2011, ARIPI seeks to improve and strengthen the intellectual property rights available to broadcasting organizations in line with evolving technologies, platforms and developments in the industry, particularly with respect to the unauthorized use of radio and television broadcasts.
ARIPI’s membership spans the Atlantic comprising broadcasting organizations operating in 18 countries, namely, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Spain, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, and Uruguay.
The Alliance was founded by 13 companies, namely: Televisa, PRISA, Univisión, Caracol Radio y Caracol TV, Media Capital, RCN Colombia, Albavisión, Continental Argentina, IberoAmericana Radio Chile, Televisora de Costa Rica, Radio Televisión Guatemala and RPP Perú.
Membership is open to any Ibero-American broadcasting organization.