Possible Treaties Brewing At WIPO Committee On CopyrightPublished on 14 June 2011 @ 3:56 pm
By Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch
Potential international legal instruments will be discussed this week and next at the World Intellectual Property Organization where delegates will try to find common language to address the protection of audiovisual performances, the protection of broadcasting organisations and agree on a set of exceptions and limitations to copyright for visually impaired people.
The 22nd session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) will take place from 15-24 June. SCCR meetings usually run for a week, but during the last session, delegates agreed on three extra working days for the next three SCCR meetings in order to discuss exceptions and limitations to copyright law (IPW, WIPO, 15 November 2010).
At the last session, the African and Asian groups and the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (GRULAC) submitted a work plan calling for text-based negotiations towards an international legal instrument or instruments on exceptions and limitations in a variety of areas, including for people with print or other disabilities, for educational and research institutions, and for libraries and archives.
The WIPO secretariat provided delegates for this week’s session with a comparative list [pdf] of proposals related to the subject of limitations and exceptions for the visually impaired persons and other persons with print disabilities. The list compares a proposal by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay, based on a proposal by the World Blind Union, a draft proposal of the United States for a consensus instrument, a draft WIPO treaty on exceptions and limitations from the African Group, and a draft joint recommendation by the European Union. Those proposals were all submitted at previous sessions.
In February, the World Blind Union (WBU) said it wished to distance itself from the WIPO Trusted Intermediary Global Accessible Resources (TIGAR) project, with the worry that this project might keep the prospect of an international treaty at bay.
The TIGAR project is meant to facilitate access to published works by visually impaired people. It was launched on 23 October 2010. The project will allow publishers to make their titles available to trusted intermediaries so that those intermediaries can create accessible formats, according to the WIPO website. The project is a collaboration between the private sector and public interest organisations, it said.
The WBU announced that it suspended its participation in the project and reaffirmed the need for an international legal instrument. The union insisted on the establishment of a treaty that would engage countries to issue national copyright exceptions laws (IPW, WIPO, 10 March 2011). WBU said the TIGAR project was “erroneously portrayed by some organisations as an alternative to the underpinning legal framework needed to guarantee equal access to information promised under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
However, WBU has high hopes for this session of the SCCR to yield tangible results. Christopher Friend, WBU strategic objective leader, told Intellectual Property Watch: “We understand that as a result of some inter-sessional meetings since SCCR 21 in November the proponents of the four proposals before the committee have seen some solid progress on a number of points and that it is hoped to develop an integrated single text – perhaps with outstanding issues with options in brackets – during the extended SCCR 22.”
“This is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get an international copyright treaty to help blind and print disabled people access more books and end the book famine,” Friend said. “WBU and visually impaired readers throughout the world urge their member states delegates to seize this opportunity fully.”
Meanwhile, proponents of WIPO efforts on limitations and exceptions are slightly wary entering the meeting after WIPO Director General Francis Gurry mentioned a desire to move the committee to a more “positive” agenda than finding ways not to apply copyright (IPW, WIPO, 13 June 2011).
A number of proposals have been tabled by countries for this session of the SCCR. Brazil submitted a proposal [pdf] to include a new paragraph to be inserted into the preamble of a draft treaty on the protection of audiovisual performances to take into account the WIPO Development Agenda.
The United States proposed a 20th article [pdf] to the existing 19 articles of the draft audiovisual treaty to “resolve the sole outstanding issue of the 2000 Diplomatic Conference,” referring to the 2000 meeting during which all delegations agreed on 19 articles of an instrument but could not reach agreement on remaining issues.
The delegation of Mexico proposed an Article 12 [pdf] on transfer of rights for the draft treaty from the year 2000.
Some open-ended consultations on the protection of audiovisual performances were carried out on 13-14 April, chaired by Osita Anaedu of Nigeria. Anaedu provided recommendations [pdf] to the SCCR. New proposals from Brazil, India, Mexico and the United States were examined and the delegations of India, Mexico and the US “agreed to work towards developing a joint proposal with respect to Article 12 on transfer of rights for consideration by SCCR 22.”
Anaedu also said, “participants underlined the importance of moving forward expeditiously towards conclusion of the negotiations to conclude a treaty on the protection of audiovisual performances.” They recommended that the SCCR “narrow the outstanding differences, in order to enable the 2011 General Assembly to decide upon the convening of a Diplomatic Conference at the earliest possible opportunity.”
South Africa presented a proposal [pdf] with draft language on a treaty for the protection of broadcasting organisations. South Africa said its proposal was informed, among others, on WIPO studies and information sessions “which revealed the rapid increase of signal piracy on other platforms other than the ones used traditionally for broadcasting activities including cable,” and the conclusions from the African Group regional seminar hosted by the government of Nigeria and co-organised with WIPO in October 2010.
Informal consultations on the protection of broadcasting organisation took place on 14-15 April, chaired by Alexandra Grazioli, from Switzerland. Grazioli provided recommendations [pdf] to the SCCR. The informal consultations involved technical experts and was meant to clarify outstanding technical and technological issues. The chair is expected to prepare a non-paper “setting out possible elements for a draft treaty” for SCCR 22, the chair’s report said.
Dialogue on Publishers Featured at SCCR
WIPO has announced that the first day of the SCCR there will be a special “High-Level Copyright Dialogue on the Book and Publishing Industry.”
The programme is as follows:
17.00 – 17.10 Welcome by the Director General of WIPO, Mr. Francis Gurry
17.10 – 17.15 Introduction by moderator: Ms. Ruth Marshall, ghost-writer and translator, Paris
17.15 – 18.00 Presentation by Speakers:
– Mr. Jason Epstein, Chairman, On Demand Books, New York
– Mr. Alaa Al Aswany, Writer, Cairo
– Mr. Richard Charkin, Executive Director, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, London
18.00 – 18.30 Questions and Answers
William New contributed to this report.
Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.