July 24 SCCR 24 informals on blind treaty produce a text, but EU and US block real movement on treaty

This evening’s informal negotiations at the SCCR 24 on the disabilities issue are over, and delegates are coming out now, with a variety of different stories. Some new document will be tabled Wednesday morning. It will have some important differences, unlike a fairly clean text that was tabled a year ago as SCCR/22/15 REV.1, which was endorsed by Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, the European Union and its Member States, Mexico, Norway, Paraguay, the Russian Federation, the United States of America and Uruguay.

During this week, the EU in particular, which has assembled a team of hardliners such as Dr. Silke von Lewinski, has pushed for all sorts of publisher friendly language in the text, which if accepted takes it down the road of the Appendix to the Berne or Paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration, as a model for an agreement that will be hard to use. It is worth noting that the EU proposals are not rooted in EU legal traditions, which include robust exceptions for disabilities, but rather EU publisher wish lists. In effect, the publishers and the EU wants to turn the project into new international norms by turning exceptions into highly regulated extended licensing agreements only to be used in limited cases. The US is not resisting the EU efforts in this regard.

Wednesday morning the biggest discussion is about the nature of the instrument and the decision to convene a diplomatic conference. Until people see the new text it will be hard to know where things stand.

Together the US and the EU have been propping each other up as the no-treaty coalition, even as the US and EU both endorsed work on a treaty for broadcasters using a brand new text that has received zero consultations at home.

The secretariat, the US and some others are trying to push negotiations on to the next SCCR in November, and have the possibility but no guarantee of a diplomatic conference sometime next year. In the US scenarios, the big decisions come after the election. Other countries will push to make the decision about a diplomatic conference on Wednesday. There does not seem to be a single script. I asked The US delegation about one report that the US and others had proposed giving Gurry authority to kill a diplomatic conference on his own, effectively taking the blame without any country taking responsibility. I did not get a straight answer. The EU appears to be wanting to defer agreement on the nature of the instrument, or the decision to schedule a diplomatic conference.

If these scenarios prevail on Wednesday, this SCCR will only take an incremental step toward a treaty — just enough to escape criticism for having blocked it, while blocking the progress that was certainly possible throughout the meeting. Much of the positioning wlll be for public relations purposes, to delay, and blame the delay on someone else.