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    Hard Times Ahead For Rights Holders? IPR High On Brussels Agenda Before Recess

    Published on 13 July 2012 @ 2:08 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    At a little-publicised annual meeting of the Transatlantic Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Working Group in Brussels this week representatives of the European Commission, several United States agencies and rights holder agreed that there might be tough times ahead for IPRs and rights holders. Meanwhile, the Commission is under pressure on copyright exceptions for visually impaired readers on the eve of a World Intellectual Property Organization meeting. And the Commission this week introduced new rules on collective societies aimed at easing user access to content.

    Where IP rights once was a field for experts, now it drives the masses to the streets, the European Commission said referring to recent protests against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Without a much stronger commitment from rights holders, the rejection of ACTA would just be the beginning, Commission representatives said according to observers.

    George York, deputy assistant to the US Trade Representative for IP and Innovation, and Susan Wilson, director of the Office of Intellectual Property Rights in the US Department of Commerce, confirmed during the meeting that despite ACTA’s failure in the EU, the ratification process would go on in the US, despite concerns by some experts about potential inconsistencies with US laws. The EU Commission confirmed its determination to wait for the European Court of Justice’s ruling on ACTA before deciding on next steps for the treaty voted down by Parliament earlier this month.

    Some information on the Transatlantic IPR WG meeting is here.

    There seems to be little appetite in the administrations of either side to reconsider ACTA and potential problems with the treaty, David Hammerstein, former Green Party Parliament member and now adviser to the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), told Intellectual Property Watch.

    Jean-Luc Demarty, the director general of the Trade Directorate of the European Commission, said at the meeting with regard to question of a potential split of counterfeiting and copyright piracy, IPR could not just be for bags and t-shirts.

    Meeting participants also were highly sceptical about open access to scientific data and scientific publications. The latter was said to undermine peer review and the publishing business by publishers. Hammerstein said he was surprised to see Commission representatives sceptical on open access after earlier decisions by the Commission had laid out an open access strategy for research funded by the EU and a recent open data strategy from Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

    More concerns from the rights holder side were related to a recent ruling by the Indian Patent Office to grant a first compulsory licence on the “Sorafenib tosylate” drug patent by Bayer (IPW, Public Health, 12 March 2012). Parts of that decision had raised “alarm bells” in both the US and the EU administration, officials expressed during the meeting. And the IP chapter of the EU-India Free Trade Agreement (one of more than half a dozen FTAs under consideration in the EU) still needs work, EU officials said.

    Administrations and rights holders were also somewhat wary about developments at the World Intellectual Property Organization, Hammerstein reported. Both administrations see the need for vigilance regarding the “somewhat tricky” provisions sought in a treaty on limitations and exceptions for archives and libraries at WIPO, he said.

    EP Petitions Committee Wants Limitations for Visually Impaired

    Clear support for the long-discussed treaty on limitations and exceptions for visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities yesterday was requested by the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament. The Petitions Committee announced it would send a letter to EU co-legislators to push for a clear commitment after a session with the European Blind Union, the World Blind Union and the European Dyslexia Association, the European Commission and the new Cyprus EU presidency.

    Members of the Petitions Committee from all party groups were enraged by the slow pace, and the lack of a negotiating mandate for the Commission just before the critical session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) next week. They asked the Cyprus presidency to name and shame those member states in the EU that so far have blocked the issue.

    “We need a binding treaty, we can’t keep going along this route of a voluntary agreement as it is not working,” Green Party Member Eva Lichtenberger said during the session of the petitions committee.

    A year ago, the Commission and member states presented a non-binding alternative at WIPO. Chris Friend from the World Blind Union and Dan Pescod from the European Blind Union therefore yesterday in Brussels urged the European Commission and Presidency to now commit to negotiate a binding treaty.

    A representative of Cyprus underlined that the dossier was a priority during the Cyprus presidency and, in a first exchange of opinions between member states last week, no member state expressed scepticism despite earlier preferences for voluntary approaches by some governments.

    The Commission on 8 June passed the decision to ask for a negotiating mandate, according to Maria Martin-Prat, head of the Commission copyright unit. That the Commission had to travel to the SCCR session next week without a mandate granted by the Council was no problem, she said. It was necessary only for the diplomatic conference, about which the WIPO General Assembly in September would have the final say.

    Yet failure next week in Geneva could lead to another postponement of the diplomatic conference, a binding treaty and the continued “book famine” for visually impaired people, warned Friend.

    The EBU published a map of EU country positions on the WIPO treaty proposal so far, available here.

    New Commission Directive on Collective Rights Management

    Separately, Michel Barnier, Commissioner for Internal Market and Services who is in charge of the visually impaired treaty, was busy proposing another document intended to help access to content in the Union. On 11 July, Barnier presented the long awaited draft directive on “collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the internal market” [pdf].

    The lengthy directive addresses two core issues: more transparency and accountability for the 250 collective rights management companies in the Union, for example, through annual reporting obligations, with clear-cut deadlines for payment to artists. The second issue is the possibility of multi-territorial licensing, which collecting societies have to realise or outsource to larger partner societies or intermediaries – or if they opt to not grant such licences allow artists to hand over to another company/society.

    Barnier underlined during a press conference that the collective rights management societies had to adapt to the digital market. As currently there are some countries with only five digital music providers, it is “no surprise that the young consumers look elsewhere.” IP and copyright must benefit creators, but also citizens, said Barnier, who has been a strong advocate of more IP enforcement regulation in recent years.

    Perhaps legislators still have not got the balance in IP quite right, the US Ambassador to the EU, William E. Kennard, said in his luncheon speech during the Transatlantic IPR Working Group.

    Monika Ermert may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. john e miller says:

      In the 18 JUN 2012 zine.openreightsgroup.org Mr. Dan Pescod made the following observation:

      “(Firstly,) there is a strong publisher lobby against the treaty in influential countries such as France and Germany especially. The publishers have not opposed our treaty because they feel that it lacks merit, but rather because they fear that it would set a precedent for other international treaties providing exceptions to copyright for other groups.”

      Also on the WIPO SCCR 24 agenda is a proposal for limitations and exceptions for libraries (23/5 with discussion at 23/8 Prov.) which the publishers MAY fear more the Visually Impaired treaty initiative.

    2. kbingh says:

      The people are taking to the streets due to the over-reach of rights-holders and governments that has shown a willingness to subornate human rights as well as freedom of speech to copyrights.

      To suggest that the answer is for rights-holders to ratchet it up even further is only going to continue to inflame the public.

    3. Are Major Copyright Lobbies Showing Signs of Panic? | Best Seedbox says:

      [...] This whole idea of major copyright lobby’s panicking over all of this isn’t pure speculation either. IP-Watch has an interesting post on the reaction of major corporate interests: [...]

    4. US Industry IP Campaign Aims At Dispelling Misconception About Commercial Interests | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] hotly debated issues he mentioned was the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) (IPW, Access to Knowledge, 13 July 2012), and the inclusion by the US of IP clauses in free trade agreements (IPW, Access to Knowledge, 27 [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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