WIPO Member States Make Headway in Shoring up Protection for Broadcasting Organizations

Geneva, June 30, 2003
Press Updates UPD/2003/200

Member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) had useful discussions and made progress in identifying the scope 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 realities of the information age. The WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), which met in Geneva from June 23 to 27,2003 was attended by delegates from 77 member states, the European Community, 7 intergovernmental organizations and 45 non-governmental organizations and various other stakeholders representing broadcasting organizations, content industries, namely film and music and civil society. A seminar on webcasting, which took place on the sidelines of the SCCR meeting, contributed to a better understanding of the issues at stake in relation to this new and evolving activity.

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

A broad consensus exists on the need to upgrade these rights and the committee made progress on a number of key issues.

First, in relation to identifying 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. Many delegations thought that traditional broadcasting and cable-originated programs would benefit from protection in a new treaty and that as webcasting was a new and evolving activity, it deserved further analysis. The possibility of protecting real-time streaming where broadcasting occurs simultaneously over the air and on the Internet by broadcasting organizations was also discussed.

Second, the committee made progress in discussing the rights to be granted to those beneficiaries. The economic rights proposed center on those already outlined in the Rome Convention, and the additional protection granted under the WIPO Internet treaties (WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Phonograms and Performances Treaty (WPPT)), as well as some new rights. A majority of delegations considered that a number of issues required further discussion, namely the right of fixation, the right of reproduction of fixations, the right of distribution of fixations, the right of re-broadcasting, the right of simultaneous retransmission, the right of making available of fixed broadcasts, the right of deferred broadcasting the right of communication to the public. It was agreed that these issues would be re-visited at the next meeting of the SCCR in November 2003.

Member states continued to examine the proposals submitted by the various member states to achieve clarification and consensus on the outstanding points. Among several proposals considered, a paper submitted by Japan urged caution on webcasters' rights and pointed out that updating the scope and level of protection of broadcasting organizations' rights was an urgent matter. It noted, however, that the protection of webcasting activities was a newly emerging issue which merited more thorough consideration. Many developing countries endorsed this position, recognizing that the Internet has evolved into an important channel for 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. It was also pointed out, however, that Internet streaming, or "webcasting," is a new way of transmitting content to consumers which requires significant investment and deserves protection in its own right. Support was also expressed for protection of the simultaneous Internet distribution of over-the-air broadcasts. Some developing country delegations stressed that webcasting was generally unknown in their countries as Internet access itself was very limited. While there was potential in this new area of activity, more information and discussion were essential.

With respect to discussions on the protection of non-original databases, the Committee decided, in view of the limited developments that had taken place on the subject, to next take the matter up only at its meeting in the first half of 2004.

The next session of the SCCR will take place in Geneva from November 3 to 5, 2003.

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