WIPO General Assembly 2019: Statement of the United States on the SCCR work program

This is the statement the United States of America delivered on behalf of the US government at the WIPO General Assembly, on the work program for the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). The most detailed discussion concerned the future work on a WIPO treaty for broadcasting organizations, an instrument that in some proposals, would create a 50 year intellectual property right in copies of works broadcast or streamed on the Internet, even when the broadcaster did not create, license, or even pay for the work.

The US intervene was welcome, because it urged WIPO to take a narrower approach, and not schedule a diplomatic conference until consensus is reached on the fundamental issues.

This was the U.S. intervention.

AGENDA ITEM 15: Report on the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related
Rights (SCCR)

We would like to begin by providing a brief update since the last General Assemblies. On February 8, 2019, the United States deposited with the Director General its instrument of ratification for the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, becoming the 50th country to do so. We were delighted to participate in a ceremony here at WIPO on April 1 celebrating the occasion. The Treaty entered into force in the United States in May, making more than half a million accessible texts available to visually impaired persons in other Marrakesh treaty members. As noted by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu, the Marrakesh treaty “establishes an important mechanism to both protect intellectual property rights and expand access to information and resources.”

The United States continues to support updating protection for broadcasting organizations under the terms of the 2006/2007 WIPO GA mandate, which calls for a “signal-based approach” to provide protection for the activities of broadcasting organizations “in the traditional sense.”

Consistent with that mandate, the United States believes that such protection should be narrowly focused. In particular, we have proposed a focus on unauthorized retransmission of the broadcast signal to the public over all platforms, including over the Internet, as one of the most significant problems facing broadcasting organizations today.

At the same time, rapid technological changes taking place in the broadcasting industry, as well as divergent legal treatment at national level, present significant challenges to establishing international norms.

As a result, it has been difficult to achieve consensus on such fundamental issues as the object of protection and rights to be granted under the treaty.

The United States is pleased meaningful progress has been made over the past months in developing ideas that can take us toward greater consensus on the issues.

Nonetheless, given the complexity of the issues, both legally and technologically, delegations are of course taking the time needed to deliberate.

We anticipate that those deliberations will continue, in a constructive spirit, for at least the next two sessions of the SCCR, which will take place in October 2019 and during the spring of 2020.

On the basis of the progress made at those sessions, Member States will be in a better position to evaluate a possible recommendation to the 2020 GA on convening a diplomatic conference for the adoption of a treaty on the protection of broadcasting organizations.

While the United States remains committed to work on a treaty to protect broadcasters against signal theft in the digital age, we cannot agree at this time to setting a specific date for a diplomatic conference. The SCCR is not yet at the point that it has developed a mature treaty text that would enable success of a diplomatic conference

In the view of the United States, the current international framework for copyright exceptions and limitations provides the appropriate flexibility, consistent with well-established international standards, for countries to adopt exceptions and limitations to advance their own national social, cultural and economic policies. We therefore do not believe it is advisable for WIPO to engage in further norm-setting work that would impose minimum requirements in this area.

The United States was pleased to participate as an observer in all three WIPO regional seminars on exceptions and limitations in 2019, which were held in Singapore, Nairobi and Santo Domingo. We believe the seminars fulfilled their principal objective: advancing understanding of copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives for educational activities by drawing on local expertise.

At the seminars, we observed that there was strong support for future work at the national and regional levels, but less support for international norm-setting.

The United States looks forward to the discussion of the reports from the seminars at the International Conference on Exceptions and Limitations in Geneva (October 18-19), which will make recommendations to the 39th session of the SCCR (October 21-25) on possible ways forward for the committee’s work on limitations and exceptions.

In our view, as we have proposed before, the most productive approach would be for the SCCR to develop high-level principles and objectives, to be drawn on by national policy makers to improve national copyright exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives and educational activities.

Once these principles are developed, WIPO members could work together to improve and update their national laws. The principles would provide a framework of common understanding of best practices, which would be useful, among other things, in conducting workshops and providing technical and/or legislative assistance for the benefit of all WIPO members.

At the next session of the SCCR in October, the U.S. delegation will request that the Chair focus attention on objectives and principles generally, using our existing documents as a point of departure for discussion.

The United States also supports continued work aimed at deepening the understanding of the Committee of national copyright limitations and exceptions for persons with disabilities other than visual impairment.