WIPO provides limited access to observe informal negotiations, but bans use of Internet social media

The WIPO Special Session negotiating the text of a new treaty on copyright exceptions for persons with disabilities is meeting from February 18 to 22. Yesterday all of the negotiations were behind closed doors, but this morning WIPO made public a copy of the revised negotiating text (available here: http://www.keionline.org/node/1651).

Today after a short plenary session, the informal negotiations were scheduled to begin behind closed doors again. But WIPO decided to permit NGOs attending the negotiations to follow a live audio of the discussions, subject to a ban on the use of the Internet and related social media to report on the negotiations.

The ban specifically singled out “twitter, blogs, news reports, and email lists” and extends to social media in general.

During the plenary discussions KEI objected to the ban of the use of social media, and proposed that WIPO permit the use of social media under the Chatham House rule — allowing us to report what was said in the informals, but not who said it. I spent some time talking to delegates about this before the meeting. The US delegation told me that they would not support a Chatham House rule approach. At this point, there is a total ban on the use of the Internet to communicate to the public, and a ban on talking to the press, as regards any information that is obtained from listening to the audio of the informals.

I assume we will be permitted to report and comment in other ways that do not rely upon this audio feed, but people will be careful because there is now a threat to cut off that access if the the forbidden information starts showing up on the Internet, and it maybe difficult to persuade people that the audio feed was not the source. This means less information will be disseminated, including the reports from the relatively accessible negotiators, of which there are many who are willing to talk in the breaks. These bans on the use of social media are increasingly being sought by transparency averse negotiators, particularly when pursuing anti-consumer and anti-freedom policies.