WIPO Outlines "Digital Agenda"

Geneva, October 31, 1999
Press Releases PR/1999/185

The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Kamil Idris, wrapped up the International Conference on Electronic Commerce and Intellectual Property on Thursday by presenting a ten-point plan that sets out a Digital Agenda for WIPO. Some 700 participants from industry, government, and other interested groups took part in the work of the Conference from September 14 to 16, 1999. An additional 700 listeners tuned in to a special web audio transmission of the proceedings.

WIPO's Digital Agenda, a set of guidelines and goals, is in line with the Organization's determination to seek solutions to problems raised by the impact of electronic commerce on intellectual property rights. It reflects WIPO's desire to take practical steps to ensure that all countries participate in the process of defining policy and addressing the issues in order to adapt intellectual property law for the digital age.

The ten points of the WIPO Digital Agenda are:

1) Broaden the participation of developing countries through the use of WIPONET and other means for:

- access to intellectual property information;
- participation in global policy formulation;
- opportunities to use their intellectual property assets in electronic commerce.

  • WIPO will establish the WIPONET in the intellectual property offices of all of its member States. This WIPONET covers the provision to all offices of the necessary equipment (hardware and software) and dedicated Internet connectivity to enable a truly global information structure and society. WIPONET will allow for the provision of intellectual property-related information and services from WIPO as well as information sharing between offices, and will enable members of the public to benefit from this information.

2) Entry into force of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) before December 2001.

  • WIPO will continue to strongly promote adherence to the WIPO "Internet treaties," so that they may enter into force before December 2001. Thirty ratifications or accessions are required before they enter into force. At present nine countries have ratified the WCT and seven the WPPT. Entry into force of these key treaties will promote basic standards of protection for copyright and related rights on the Internet and other digital networks. At the outset of the Conference, the United States of America deposited its instruments of ratification to these two treaties.

3) Promote adjustment of the international legislative framework to facilitate electronic commerce through:

- the extension of the principles of the WPPT to audiovisual performances;
- the adaptation of broadcasters' rights to the digital era;
- progress towards a possible international instrument on the protection of databases.

  • The 1996 negotiations that led to the conclusion of the WCT and WPPT left open the questions of a treaty or protocol to cover audiovisual performances and the rights of broadcasters in the digital era. In addition, further study must be given to the question of whether an international instrument is needed concerning the protection of databases. These issues are currently being addressed in WIPO Standing Committees.

4) Implement the recommendations of the Report of the Domain Name Process and pursue the achievement of compatibility between identifiers in the real and virtual worlds through the establishment of rules for mutual respect and the elimination of contradictions between the domain name system and intellectual property rights.

  • WIPO will continue its work aimed at curbing the abuse of trademarks on the Internet, seeking to determine the appropriate balancing of rights between intellectual property owners and the holders of domain names, and resolving disputes that have arisen out of the interaction of the Internet domain name system and the traditional system of intellectual property law.

5) Develop appropriate principles with the aim of establishing, at the appropriate time at the international level, rules for determining the circumstances of intellectual property liability of Online Service Providers (OSPs) which are compatible and workable within a framework of general liability rules for OSPs.

  • WIPO plans to study the issue of the rules concerning liability including the proper limitations for service providers who may face liability in certain jurisdictions for infringements of intellectual property and other laws in the course of providing connectivity services for users of the Internet.

6) Promote adjustment of the institutional framework for facilitating the exploitation of intellectual property in the public interest in a global economy and on a global medium through administrative coordination and, where desired by users, the implementation of systems in respect of:

- the interoperability and interconnection of electronic copyright management systems and the metadata of such systems;
- the online licensing of the digital expression of cultural heritage;
- the online administration of intellectual property disputes.

  • WIPO will explore possible coordination at the international level of systems for copyright management on the digital networks including their technical aspects and information on the protected works and the rights of their owners. Due to the global nature of the Internet, any license of a copyright work may happen across borders, with protagonists located in different countries and jurisdictions, and therefore the technical harmonization and interoperability of various systems is essential.

7) Introduce and develop online procedures for the filing and administration of international applications for the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Madrid System, and the Hague Agreement at the earliest possible date.

  • This will simplify and speed up the processing of applications and the administration of intellectual property worldwide. This will also facilitate cooperation between national intellectual property offices through WIPO, via the provision of electronic services to member States and eventually to users.

8) Study and, where appropriate, respond in a timely and effective manner to the need for practical measures designed to improve the management of cultural and other digital assets at the international level by, for example, investigating the desirability and efficacy of:

- model procedures and forms for global licensing of digital assets;
- the notarization of electronic documents;
- the introduction of a procedure for the certification of websites for compliance with appropriate intellectual property standards and procedures.

  • WIPO will explore the possibility of using a neutral third party, such as WIPO itself, in certain cases, for notarization and certification services. This is where a neutral third party such as WIPO could provide consumer confidence in electronic intellectual property commerce, given that in a virtual environment where consumers may not meet the vendor nor inspect the goods, security concerns are natural.

9) Study any other emerging intellectual property issues related to electronic commerce and, where appropriate, develop norms in relation to such issues.

  • This reflects WIPO's mandate, as expressed through the approval of its member States, to study any emerging issue in the field of electronic commerce.

10) Coordinate with other international organizations in the formulation of appropriate international positions on horizontal issues affecting intellectual property, in particular:

- the validity of electronic contracts;
- jurisdiction.

  • WIPO will commit itself to collaborating and cooperating with other international organizations, such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), in the area of electronic commerce in order to avoid wasteful duplication in work programs. Since electronic commerce crosses over many fields such as intellectual property, trade, privacy, jurisdiction and telecommunications, international organizations need to cooperate and share their expertise in order to address these issues. In this way they can respond effectively to the speed of developments in the field and the need for a harmonized approach among the community of States.

For further information, see Press Release 184 or please contact the Media Relations & Public Affairs Section at WIPO:

Tel: (00 41 22) 338 81 61 or 338 95 47;
Fax: (41 22) 338 88 10;
E-mail: publicinf@wipo.int