Movement in Discussions on Protection for Broadcasting Organizations

Geneva, November 13, 2002
Press Updates UPD/2002/178

Member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) inched closer to agreement on the nature of the rights to be granted to broadcasting organizations in a multilateral treaty which would, if adopted, update international regulations in this area bringing them in line with the technological demands of the digital era. The WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), which met in Geneva from November 4 to 8, 2002, was attended by delegates from 90 member states, including the European Community, 9 intergovernmental organizations and 45 non-governmental organizations and various other stakeholders representing broadcasting organizations and content industries, namely film and music. A seminar on the legal and technical aspects of broadcasting was held on the sidelines of the SCCR meeting and contributed to a better understanding of the issues at stake.

Talks to update the intellectual property rights of broadcasters, which are currently dealt with by the 1961 Rome Convention on the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations, began in the 1990s. The advent of radically new types of communications and of content distribution over the Internet has made it necessary to review and upgrade existing international standards to ensure an appropriate balance between the different interests of all stakeholders and those of the general public.

While there is agreement on the need to upgrade these rights, differences still exist between member states on key issues. First, these relate to who should be the beneficiaries, namely whether only organizations which broadcast over the air are to be given better protection, or whether such protection should also be extended to cablecasters and certain categories of webcasters. Secondly, they relate to the rights to be granted to those beneficiaries, in particular, the right of fixation, the right of reproduction of fixations, the right of re-broadcasting, the right to decrypt encrypted broadcasts, and the right to rent fixations of broadcasts to the public.

Among several proposals considered by the Committee was one by the United States of America to grant cablecasters (cable transmission) and webcasters (transmission over the Internet) the same level of protection which is proposed to be afforded to traditional (i.e. over the air) broadcasters. An earlier proposal, submitted by the European Community and its member states, includes protection of cablecasters, but not for webcasters. Member states will further examine the proposal at the SCCR's next meeting in June 2003.

Many delegations recognized that the Internet has evolved into an important way of distributing content that is protected by copyright or related rights through various free or subscription-based services. Internet streaming is one of two principal methods for users to access sound and/or images over the Internet. The first method is downloads, whereby a file on a server is accessed by a remote user, transmitted over the Internet in the form of "packets" to the user's machine and saved there locally, in most cases on the hard drive. The second is "streaming," which is an Internet data transfer technique that allows users to see and hear audio and video files without lengthy download times. The host or source "streams" small packets of information over the Internet to the user, who can access the content as it is received. The stream may be a real time (live) transmission or an archived file.

The common underlying feature of all types of Internet streaming is that files are not saved locally on the user's machine. Delegates stressed, however, the difficulty in distinguishing between certain protected streaming emanating from broadcasting organizations and individual-based streaming that could be conducted without investment, on an amateur basis. Some thought that simultaneous real-time streaming where broadcasting takes place simultaneously over the air and on the Internet by broadcasting organizations might benefit from protection in a new treaty.

The Committee generally agreed on the need to fully clarify the scope of protection before granting specific rights to the various stakeholders as well as on the need to balance stakeholder interests with those of the general public. A working document on "Terms and Concepts" associated with the question of protection of the rights of broadcasting organizations was presented to the Committee to explain and clarify the many associated technical and legal issues.

A growing signal piracy problem, particularly of pre-broadcast signals, in many parts of the world has also generated a need to discuss the nature and scope of protection for broadcasts.

With respect to discussions on the protection of databases, the SCCR received a submission from the European Community, which explained the situation in that region and called for a reactivation of the Committee's discussions on that issue. Collections of data, such as telephone directories, the compilation of which is not considered sufficiently original to qualify for copyright protection, may still require some protection because the heavy investment involved in their creation and maintenance needs to be secured to avoid abuses associated with unauthorized copying and dissemination for example, over the Internet.

The Committee also took note of a list of issues for possible future review and action including: the responsibility of Internet service providers (ISPs), applicable law in respect of international infringements, voluntary copyright recordal systems, resale right or "droit de suite", the economics of copyright, collective management of copyright and related rights, protection of folklore, ownership of and authorization to use multimedia products and practical aspects of implementation of the WIPO "Internet Treaties".

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