Protection of Broadcasting Organisations, Another Treaty Brewing At WIPO

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The protection of broadcasting organisations will be discussed at the World Intellectual Property Organization this week as delegates are expected to work on a text that could become an international treaty.

An Informal Session and Special Session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) will take place from 10-12 April, and will focus on the protection of broadcasting organization. Country delegates will work from a document approved at the 24th session of the SCCR, when this issue was discussed from 16-25 July 2012.

The “working document [pdf] for a treaty on the protection of broadcasting organizations” includes 16 articles, and it is expected that only some of those articles will be discussed during the three days of the special session. Most articles contain several alternative and footnotes include proposed language by countries.

According to the WIPO website, “international rules to protect television broadcasts from piracy have not been updated” since the 1961 Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations, at a time when “cable was in its infancy and the Internet not even invented.”

With the progress of technology, “signal theft has become a big commercial headache for broadcasting organizations around the world,” it said. According to WIPO, signal piracy can take physical form such as unauthorised recordings of broadcasts on video tapes, DVS, or UBS sticks or it can be unauthorised redistribution of signals over the air or online.

It was after WIPO members agreed to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, in 1996, that broadcasters began to press for updated protection, WIPO said. It lists outstanding issues as being the object of protection: the manner in which broadcast signals should be protected, and what further rights should be given to broadcasters.

In its report on the work of the SCCR, the last annual General Assembly stated that, “The Committee reaffirmed its commitment to continue work on a signal based approach, consistent with the 2007 General Assembly mandate, towards developing an international treaty to update the protection of broadcasting and cablecasting organizations in the traditional sense.”

“The Committee also agreed to recommend to the WIPO General Assembly that the Committee continue its work toward a text that will enable a decision on whether to convene a diplomatic conference in 2014,” the report said.

According to WIPO, the working document still reflects multiple views on key issues. Three days is not enough time to go through the whole text so in terms of issues, discussions will likely focus this week on issues identified by the 2007 General Assembly: the objectives of the treaty, its specific scope and the object of protection, a WIPO source told Intellectual Property Watch.

Core issues that underlie several articles will likely be discussed, such as those reflected in Article 5 on definitions, which includes definitions of signal, broadcast, and broadcasting organisations, as well as definitions of rights like retransmission, fixation, and communication to the public. “It is anticipated that many issues will be related to the terms found in Article 5,” Michele Woods director, Copyright Law Division, Culture and Creative Industries Sector at WIPO, told Intellectual Property Watch.

Also expected to be discussed are fundamental issues that are reflected in Article 6 (scope of application) which specifically deals with the scope of the instrument, and Article 9 (protection for broadcasting organisations) which establishes rights to be potentially granted.

All three articles include multiple alternatives at this stage and represent core issues although the discussion might not be limited to those articles, the WIPO source said. For example, the principles reflected in Article 7 on the beneficiaries of the protection might be discussed too, the source said.

“There is a lot of interest in this meeting, with, for example, a significant number of NGOs who will be attending,” including broadcasters, Woods said. “The overall hope is that delegates can really have some deep thinking and discussions on these core issues that are fundamental to moving forward, she said

“According to some delegates, a successful meeting would be to have had thorough discussions on at least a few of those key points and to really understand each others’ views” at the end of the week, she added.

The next SCCR meeting will take place from 29 July-2 August, according to a WIPO source. The committee will then have to report to the General Assemblies, which indicated in 2012 that the committee was to continue work in 2013 to enable a decision by the General Assemblies on the convening of a diplomatic conference in 2014, according to WIPO.

During the 24th session of the SCCR, India had reservations about the working document, seeing divergence from the 2007 mandate that the instrument should only cover broadcast signals. The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) said at that meeting that it is “a physical impossibility” to fix a signal, as it “no longer exists once a device capable of making the programme perceptible receives it.” The group also cautioned against a treaty that could potentially turn anyone streaming something live on a platform like YouTube into a broadcaster (IPW, WIPO, 24 July 2013).


Catherine Saez may be reached at

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