WIPO To Host Seminar on Internet Intermediaries

Geneva, March 23, 2005
Media Alerts MA/2005/17

The management of intellectual property in the online environment raises significant opportunities as well as challenges. On April 18, 2005, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will host a seminar that brings together international experts and business leaders, academics, government delegates, civil society and policy makers to discuss issues relating to copyright liability of those who act as online intermediaries.

Increasingly, interest and concern is focusing on copyright issues relating to Internet intermediaries – a category of actors in the information society that is widening as technologies develop, and may now include Internet service providers (ISPs), bulletin board services, online auction sites and portals and even distributors of file-sharing software for peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. For instance, the rapid rise and popularity of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks present copyright owners and the copyright-based industries (such as music, film and software) with both a potentially lucrative new business model and the threat of rampant infringement of their intellectual property rights. What responsibility should the providers of these P2P services bear for the actions of users who illegally trade music, films and software?

Internet intermediaries, as providers of services that enable these transactions to occur, are at the center of global debate involving complex policy, legal and business issues. The international response to such issues has varied. For example, the French ISPs, copyright industries and Government have signed a charter of commitment to promote legal distribution of music and respect for intellectual property, in an effort towards self-regulation. The Recording Industry Association of America has instituted over 5,000 legal actions against individual file sharers, fuelling a public debate over issues of free speech and privacy. Court cases on these issues have taken place, or are currently before the courts in Australia, Belgium, China, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands, involving high stakes and millions of users.

The one-day WIPO seminar will review issues relating to copyright and Internet intermediaries, regulatory perspectives on intermediary liability, notice-and-takedown procedures, peer-to-peer (P2P) services (the case of online music), and future policy directions. Speakers include representatives of the US Copyright Office and the European Commission, eBay and Verizon Communications and the UK Publishers Association. Participation from the audience is encouraged.

The seminar will be held at WIPO headquarters at 34, chemin des Colombettes, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland. It will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 18, 2005, and simultaneous interpretation will be available in English, French and Spanish. The seminar is free of charge and open to all interested persons, although numbers will be limited by seating capacity. The full program and registration details are available at https://www.wipo.int/meetings/2005/wipo_iis/en/program.html.

Journalists wishing to cover this event are requested to contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section at WIPO: Tel: + 41 22 338 8161 or 338 95 47; e-mail: publicinf@wipo.int.