Time For A Positive Agenda, WIPO’s Gurry Tells Copyright CrowdPublished on 13 June 2011 @ 10:19 pm
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
In remarks that have raised questions among libraries and the information technology industry, World Intellectual Property Organization Director General Francis last week told a copyright industry gathering that it is time to move away from a “negative” agenda of limitations and exceptions to copyright. It may also be a time for more private-sector involvement in international policymaking, he said.
Speaking to a session at the 7-8 June World Copyright Summit, Gurry described a need to move to a 21st century policy agenda, a new international governance structure, and more ideas on how to proceed.
The copyright agenda at WIPO “tends to be a negative one,” Gurry said. “It tends to be looking at the exceptions, the limitations, and the other ways of not having intellectual property. I’m very keen to see us coming back with a positive agenda for intellectual property.”
The video of the Q&A with Gurry is here.
The WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) is scheduled to meet from 15-22 June. WIPO is a United Nations agency whose agenda is decided by its members. A top item on the SCCR agenda is limitations and exceptions to copyright.
In response to Gurry’s remarks about a negative agenda, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, Electronic Information for Libraries, the World Blind Union, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association sent a letter to Gurry dated 10 June. The letter is available here [pdf].
The groups requested a clarification of Gurry’s remarks, as they “consider that an international exceptions and limitations agenda is a key tool to enable the right balance of copyright in the 21st Century. A copyright system that respects both rights and freedoms will protect users, rights holders and society as a whole.”
“Your statement suggests a bias against balance and in favour of more protection,” they said. “[A]nd your use of “us,” given the audience you were addressing, could imply that the WIPO Secretariat is aligning itself with a specific set of rights holder interests.”
Limitations and exceptions are “a positive and beneficial tool to sustain learning, support the exchange of scholarly information and promote creativity,” they wrote.
It was not known at press time whether WIPO had responded to the letter.
Meanwhile, in relation to an idea that arose at WIPO last year (IPW, WIPO, 22 November 2010) – creation of a copyrighted music registry and a global repertoire database – Gurry pitched WIPO’s expertise in operating registries if called on to lead.
The New WIPPPO Future?
Gurry said international organisations are going to have to change, and that public-private partnerships are becoming “much, much more frequent.” “The engagement of the productive sector – the private sector – is essential for the survival of international intergovernmental organisations,” Gurry said. A “different governance structure” is going to be needed.
Apparently referring to the [corrected] registry idea, he said it could fit into the structure of an international organisation, but with its own governance structure of the data owners. But these are still “open questions,” he said.
He also cited a newly announced project with Google to produce collective management organisation software for musicians in West African countries to register their music so they can more easily get paid for its use.
The WIPO release on the Africa project is here.
The Google release on the project is here.
Gurry said WIPO’s terms in dealing with a private-sector actor on a registry are that it be a global public asset, owned by no one, used by everyone, and where anyone can operate a business model.
Gurry also signalled a support for discussions about internet service provider liability, which the copyright industry would like to see more. He emphasised that neutrality is important to the enabling environment for creativity, but said ISPs should be part of the solution to loss of copyrighted work in the digital age. No one, he said, is in a position to impose solutions in this area. Rather, it must come through dialogue.
The way to bring substantive dialogue about, he suggested, is to look at the effect of the digital environment on the financing of culture in the 21st century. By doing so, it will become evident that “intermediaries are a key to a solution,” he said.
Gurry said the old arguments against “piracy” could be changed to a strategy of engaging users, young and old, on the responsibility for cultural productivity, and understanding of the need for copyright to pay the artists while ensuring the widest access to content possible. The message would be for all to think about how to finance this, as “it can’t just be free.”
Gurry was also asked about remarks made recently about the need for “activism” to revise the copyright model for the digital age (IPW, WIPO, 15 March 2011).
He explained that copyright owners and other stakeholders should be activist about their future, that the world should not arrive at an approach “by default, but rather by design.” “We all need to be constructing a roadmap,” he said, as it cannot be up to an international organisation to simply say “here it is.”
The question of copyright in a digital environment is made up of elements: legal, infrastructure, cultural change, and new and better business models, he said., adding, “We’re seeing movement in all those areas,” but need to put it all together.
Clean Up AV, Broadcasting Treaties – and Move On
There is a need to “clean up” older ideas associated with the 20th century, such as a treaty on protection of audiovisual performances or broadcasters’ rights, and move to a new agenda at the international level, he said. There is still “some reason for optimism” for the AV and broadcasting treaties, he said.
“There is a reality gap increasingly between what is on the agenda of the [WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights] and what is happening in the copyright world,” he said. WIPO is “trying to move members” toward this realisation, he said.
But whether this will be received “positively” by member states remains to be seen.
William New may be reached at email@example.com.