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WIPO Hosts Interactive Exhibition on Music in the Digital Age

Geneva, September 21, 2000
Press Releases PR/2000/239

A new exhibition at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on the theme "Music in the Digital Age" will be inaugurated on Monday, September 25. The exhibition will look at how digital technologies and the Internet are transforming the process of creating, distributing, storing and accessing music in today's on-line world.

The exhibition takes the visitor through three critical stages in the production and delivery of digital music: how it is created and recorded, how it is disseminated, and how it is ultimately enjoyed. It also examines how the use of these new technologies is affecting intellectual property law and practice, particularly in the field of copyright and related rights. These rights safeguard the ability of artists, performers, and producers of musical recordings to control and receive payment for their musical works.

The first part of the exhibition explores how music is digitally created and produced today. Multimedia and video presentations explain how advances in digital recording streamline the production process and provide listeners with higher quality sounds. A model home recording studio demonstrates how a lot of the work that once required large, costly recording equipment can now be carried out with an electronic keyboard and a home computer. Such advances in technology lower recording and production costs for musicians, and also help them to create new styles of music.

The second section deals with the way in which digital technologies have revolutionized the dissemination of music, specifically over the Internet. While the development of the MP3 music compression format has transformed the way music is transmitted to a worldwide audience, it also presents significant challenges for owners of copyright. For example, while MP3 provides unknown musicians with a means of promoting and selling their music over the web to a global audience, it has also fuelled unprecedented levels of music piracy. The widespread use of MP3 means that any consumer with a home computer and modem can make unauthorized copies of countless songs at will. Hundreds of websites that make this sort of mass piracy possible have proliferated in cyberspace. The exhibition explores possible technical and legal solutions that may be applied to curb such widespread violation of copyright and to safeguard the livelihoods of those who create and produce music thereby ensuring that society as a whole benefits from a rich variety of musical expression. Such solutions include those outlined in the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), concluded in 1996 and known together as the WIPO "Internet Treaties".

Finally, in a third section dedicated to the consumption of music, the exhibition shows how all of these technologies come together to benefit the listener. Today, music fans have myriad choices in how to access and listen to music - with a CD player, over the Internet at home, or at school, in a car, even via a mobile telephone - and the options continue to expand daily. As options increase, however, so too do difficulties in protecting the rights of those who create or own the rights to music.

As the exhibition points out, the debate over protecting the rights of creators in the digital age is on-going and that practical solutions are still being developed. Ultimately, however, the responsibility to respect the rights of those who create, record, and publish music rests with the listeners who enjoy it, although government agencies are responsible for enforcement measures.

The exhibition "Music in the Digital Age", which is being held at the WIPO Information Center in Geneva, will be open to the public until August 2001.

For further information, please contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section at WIPO: