KEI Statement in opposition to a WIPO Treaty for Broadcasting Organizations

KEI Statement on the Broadcast Treaty at WIPO SCCR 22
June 21, 2011

KEI opposes work at WIPO on a new treaty for broadcasting organizations.

To the extent that creative works are distributed through broadcasting networks, they are nearly always protected by copyright.

In the small cases where the broadcast involves material in the public domain, it would be a mistake to give the broadcaster an intellectual property right, merely for transmitting information.

When governments grant intellectual property rights to broadcasting organizations, they undermine the rights of copyright holders, and reduce the incomes of creative communities.

Piracy of broadcasting signals already is against the law under copyright, as well as under various national and local laws on the theft of services.

The advocates of a broadcasting treaty have not shown that there is an problem in the area of piracy that cannot be addressed by existing laws on copyright or theft of service. The treaty is in essence an attempt by corporate broadcasting entities to change outcomes of licensing negotiations, by giving the broadcasters a right that they would otherwise have to acquire by contract, in return for something they would give the copyright holders.

Our largest concern is that the broadcasting treaty will be extended beyond the beneficiaries of the 1961 Rome Convention, to services such as cable television and satellite television and radio, which users have to pay for through subscriptions, and most importantly, to services provided over the Internet.

In its most aggressive formulations in terms of rights of casting entities, the treaty would provide up to 50 years or even perpetual exclusive rights in content for which the broadcaster did not create and does not own the copyright. This creates a thicket of permissions that makes it much more difficult to redistribute and reuse content.

Among the advocates for a intellectual property based broadcasting treaty are a number of giant media companies that package and aggregate copyright content into cable television channels, over pay services such as cable television or satellite television and radio. For many if not most countries, this will result in a transfer of income from local copyright owners to media conglomerates, such as Disney, Time Warner, Viacom, News Corp and Discovery.

Document SCCR/22/11 on “Elements for a Draft Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations, by the Chair of the Informal Consultations on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations held in Geneva on April 14 and 15, 2011, ” is an effort to mitigate some of the concerns of the critics of the Broadcasting Treaty, but it fails to clarify important issues, and it is difficult to say with any certainly what types of rights are proposed. SCCR/22/11 also proposed to extend the treaty to “The simultaneous and unchanged transmission of its programs over computer networks by a broadcasting organization.”

There remains major disagreements about the objectives of such a treaty.

The broadcasting entities want a treaty that provides intellectual property rights for their broadcasts, like the Rome Convention provides, extended to new platforms, such as cable, satellite television and (for some delegates) the Internet. This is the wrong paradigm for the Internet, and unnecessary for any platform, where copyright and theft of service laws provide balance as regards users rights, and adequate remedies against unauthorized uses.