In “Marathon” WIPO Copyright Ctte Session, Print Disabled Instrument Finishes Last

7 December 2011

On Friday 2 December, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) wrapped up a two week long "marathon" session of its copyright committee that tackled issues ranging from treaties for audiovisual performances and  broadcasting organisations to a limitations and exceptions instrument for libraries and archives.  However, an instrument that would ensure access to works for the print disabled was left on the sidelines, despite having gained momentum at the committee's previous session.

The Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) met from 21 November to 2 December in Geneva, Switzerland. The draft conclusions of the SCCR - adopted late on Friday night - are available here.

Treaties for audiovisual performances and broadcasting organisations progress

A preparatory committee for a treaty on the protection of audiovisual performances, meeting in parallel to the SCCR, agreed that it would hold a diplomatic conference - the highest level of negotiations at WIPO - on the subject after 20 June 2012. A diplomatic conference for the same treaty had been suspended in 2000 over disagreements on the issue of transfer of rights from performer to producer.

The committee agreed that the diplomatic conference - set to take place in Beijing - would not reopen any previously agreed upon provisions from the previous conference, but could add more explanatory language to certain articles.

In a similar vein, discussions on a treaty for the protection of broadcasting organisations advanced, with the committee agreeing to continue its "signal-based approach."

The rights of broadcasters are currently addressed by the 1961 Rome Convention, yet some countries and media broadcasters felt it necessary to update them in face of rampant piracy and technological changes. Several countries and NGOs are concerned that such additional protection would undermine copyright holders in the creative industries and create a hierarchy between small webcasters and large "traditional" broadcasters.

Knowledge Ecology International - a Washington-based NGO - noted that this proposed treaty would extend "beyond the beneficiaries of the 1961 Rome Convention" and would give broadcasters rights to content that they did not create or own the copyright to.

In this session of the SCCR, South Africa and Mexico submitted a proposal intended to bridge the gap between  differing views, in particular on whether the treaty should cover webcasting in addition to traditional broadcasting. The proposal posits that the treaty should only cover traditional broadcasts in a technologically neutral way.

The committee agreed to discuss this and other proposals for the protection of broadcasting organisations further at the next session of the SCCR.

L&Es for libraries and archives move forward, leaving print disabilities behind

This session of the SCCR saw libraries and archives at the centre of attention, with countries agreeing to discuss the issue under 11 thematic clusters, namely: preservation; right of reproduction and safeguarding copies; legal deposit; library lending; parallel importations; cross-border uses; orphan works, retracted and withdrawn works, and works out of commerce; limitations on liability of libraries and archives; technological measures of protection; contracts; and right to translate works (see Bridges Weekly 23 November 2011).

However, controversy drew out the discussions late into the night as countries disagreed over the nature of the instrument and whether the SCCR should consider a treaty or simply a non-binding instrument.

As a compromise, the WIPO Secretariat proposed that an exhaustive document including all opinions and proposals be compiled, entitled  "Provisional working document containing comments on, and textual suggestions towards, an appropriate International legal instrument (in whatever form) on exceptions and limitations on libraries and archives." The document would be presented to the next session of the SCCR.

Some countries expressed discomfort in having spent valuable negotiation time discussing the wording of the title of the document, but libraries and archives lauded the progress made, calling the process "very encouraging indeed."

"SCCR's consideration of prospective provisions for library and archives exemptions augurs well for researchers, students, and the public worldwide," said former Society of American Archivists President William Maher.

Despite progress in other areas, the issue of limitations and exceptions for persons with print disabilities did not advance much, though the last session of the SCCR had left many hopeful (See Bridges Weekly 29 June 2011).

Brazil expressed its discomfort with the fact that the current text on the table "has much more open issues than the joint proposal that was co-sponsored by a very large representative number of delegations in the last session of the SCCR."

Meanwhile, the EU proposed substantial revisions to the text, disappointing a number of countries and other members of civil society.

An earlier "consensus document" had been proposed by a wide cross-regional group that included various South American countries, the EU, and the US.

"We are now, perhaps, more distant from the objective than ever before," the Brazilian delegate said.

"We made relatively little progress, and in some ways went backward," added Dan Pescod of the World Blind Union.

The next meeting of the SCCR is tentatively scheduled for July 2012, after the diplomatic conference for the audiovisual treaty.

ICTSD reporting; "WIPO Sees Progress on Broadcasters Rights, Library Exceptions; Treaty For Blind Readers Slips," IP WATCH, 5 December 2011.

This article is published under
7 December 2011
Delegates from 160 countries have agreed upon a new global partnership aimed at ensuring that foreign aid reaches those most in need, after meeting last week in South Korea. While the agreement was...
7 December 2011
Last week brought about significant developments in two high-profile trade cases over advanced manufacturing involving the US. After the EU announced on 1 December that it had complied with an...