WIPO to Present its "Digital Agenda" to Member States

Geneva, October 31, 1999
Press Releases PR/1999/186

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will submit to its member States the "Digital Agenda" it drafted following a three-day meeting in Geneva from September 14 to 16, 1999 that brought together some 700 high-level representatives from government, industry and other interested parties. Among the high-level government representatives that addressed the International Conference on Electronic Commerce and Intellectual Property Issues were the Secretary of Commerce of the United States of America, Mr. William Daley, French Minister of Culture, Mrs. Catherine Trautmann, the Attorney General of Australia, Mr. Daryl Williams, and the Minister of Industry and International Business of Barbados, Mr. Reginald Farley.

The government representatives highlighted the growing importance of electronic commerce for all countries whether industrialized or developing and commended WIPO for the work that it is doing in this economically significant area.

Secretary Daley underlined the vital nature of WIPO's work in today's "technologically-driven economy". "Especially as the Internet grows, WIPO will have an ever-increasing role to play. So I look forward to a global dialogue on all the intellectual property issues the Internet raises, " he added. In addition, Secretary Daley said the only way the Internet will ever reach its potential "is if we strengthen its intellectual property protection." He observed that the only products that can be delivered on-line are intellectual goods, such as music, software, and literary works which benefit from copyright protection. He also underscored the benefits of using the Internet for electronic commerce for developing countries. Secretary Daley said the Internet offers artists from all over the world - developed and developing countries alike - the same opportunities for marketing their works.

France's Minister of Culture, Mrs. Catherine Trautmann, praised the work WIPO is doing in the formulation of norms relating to intellectual property. She stressed that WIPO is the right forum for such work. "The international community established an institution that specializes in intellectual property. Therefore, this institution must have a hold on the development of international norms in its area of competence. This is the clear position of my country," the French Minister said.

She underlined the primordial importance of safeguarding "the cultural dimension," and electronic commerce as well as the quality and diversity of on-line content. "This can be expressed, in the face of very powerful economic and technical challenges, in particular, by the defense of copyright and related rights and government support of creators and specific cultural industries" she said. "The role of WIPO will be primordial in the future" Mrs. Trautmann added, "because it will coordinate and complement action taken by governments".

Australia's Attorney General reiterated his "strong support" for the continuation of WIPO's work program on electronic commerce and intellectual property. Mr. Williams highlighted the great volume of sales over the Internet today and said this requires the attention of policy-makers. "The volume of sales made on-line is already vast, and policy makers clearly cannot afford to ignore electronic commerce," he said.

Mr. Williams warned against a possible rift between those who have access to computers and the Internet and those who do not. "There is a risk - not confined to developing countries - that a division will open up between those in society who possess, or have ready access to, computers and the Internet - the so-called "information rich" - and those who do not - the "information poor"". To cope with this problem, he said the Australian Government has advocated promoting availability of public access facilities.

The Minister of Industry and International Business of Barbados welcomed the convening of the Conference at this important time when rapid technological advances have created immense opportunities. The Internet, he said, "has broken the barriers of time, distance, and sometimes costs, thus making it possible for small, distant countries to compete in new market niches." The Minister underlined the need for international collaboration "to develop harmonized schemes of minimum regulatory standards which ensure the integrity of cross border electronic commerce transactions, protects rights owners, whilst at the same time permitting the flexibility, creativity and innovativeness which have been hallmarks of the new technology." He called for public-private sector collaboration to develop policies to address this new phenomenon.

At the end of the meeting, the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Kamil Idris, launched a ten-point plan that set out a Digital Agenda for WIPO. This 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 and reflects WIPO's desire to take practical steps to ensure that all countries participate in the process of defining policy and standards to address the role of intellectual property in the digital age. The Agenda places special emphasis on developing countries. Dr. Idris said "We want to broaden opportunities for developing countries to trade their intellectual property assets via the Internet," adding "that should help them expand trade using their rich cultural heritage."

The Agenda will be submitted to the member States of WIPO at their annual meeting in Geneva from September 20 to 29, 1999. The Director General will request comments and suggestions from the member States and seek endorsement of the Digital Agenda.

For further information, see Press Release 185 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

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.

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

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

- the extension of the principles in 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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

8) Study and, where appropriate, respond in a timely and effective manner to the need for 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.

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

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.