WIPO Chief Calls for Seamless, Global, Legal Digital Content Regime06/06/2014 by Dugie Standeford for Intellectual Property Watch 4 CommentsShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Much of our best content is available only to IP Watch subscribers. We are a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now.ATHENS – In what the representative of a major consumer group called a “big step,” World Intellectual Property Organization Director General Francis Gurry today called for development of a seamless, global, legal, digital content marketplace that could offer the chance to bridge seemingly intractable copyright issues. Speaking at a conference in Athens hosted by the Greek EU Presidency on copyright and Europe’s digital agenda, Gurry said the search for such a market should take the form of a dialogue that includes all stakeholders. Gurry’s comments were refreshing, said European Consumers Organisation (BEUC) Senior Legal Officer Costas Rossoglou. However, he and Caroline De Cock, coordinator of the Copyright for Creativity Coalition (C4C), said the conference was biased in favour of rights owners, some of whom showed little respect for contrary views.Regarding WIPO’s work, Gurry said the words “multilateral agenda” represent “contested realities.” Multilateral” is problematic because the capacity of the world to agree on intellectual property issues is severely limited now, he said. There are many reasons for the reduced capacity, but it’s paradoxical that at a time when the need for multilateral accords is greatest, the ability to agree is most limited, he said. The internet is one such arena: it needs a global approach that’s being hampered by lagging laws and technologies, he said.“Agenda” reflects the lack of a shared understanding of the role copyright can play in economies, Gurry said. Again, there are many reasons for the problem, which finds its expression in the tension between those who say the future lies with limitations and exceptions to copyright, and those who want stronger copyright enforcement, he said. Copyright should be recognised as the best market-based mechanism for financing cultural production, Gurry said.WIPO’s top copyright focus now is on concluding a treaty updating broadcasting protections and dealing with proposed and existing exceptions for libraries, archives and educational uses, Gurry said. He noted “considerable disagreement” about what form any agreement should take, whether treaty, soft law, guidance or principles. It’s important to move the discussion beyond form to substance, because there the underlying positions are “worlds apart,” he said.If WIPO member states agree on an updated broadcasting treaty, their next big challenge lies in the area of the digital marketplace, Gurry said. The past focus has been on transitioning from analogue to digital, with less attention paid to the tension terrestrial copyright systems are feeling in trying to deal with the global marketplace, he said.We’re now in the phase of experiment and adaption as new forms of business models for creative works mushroom, but what’s needed next is a seamless, global, legal market for digital content, he said. The dialogue – on barriers, cross-border licensing and infrastructure and other issues – could enable a shared understanding of copyright and its value for economic and social development, said Gurry.“Nice, Comfortable Monologue”Panellists, drawn entirely from the creative industries and academia, discussed how to make content accessible in a digital single market, and limitations and exceptions to copyright in the digital age. But in comments from the floor, De Cock and Rossoglou challenged the failure to include end-users and consumers in the event. C4C members include BEUC, European Digital Rights and the Computer and Communications Industry Association.It was a “nice, comfortable monologue,” DeCock told Intellectual Property Watch. But creators create content for consumers to enjoy, and if those consumers aren’t included in the discussion, what’s the point? she asked. Moreover, several panellists failed to show respect for those representing consumers, she said.Rossoglou criticised the “biased” programme, saying it included the same organisations defending the same business models. The copyright debate has become dogmatic, he said. But Rossoglou praised Gurry’s call for a single legal digital market and for wanting to tackle the substance of copyright exceptions and limitations.Michele Woods, director of WIPO’s copyright law division, recapped the organisation’s ongoing activities on copyright. Despite the work, there is a “somewhat tough climate” now due to the focus on procedural rather than substantive issues, she added.Copyright to Remain on EC AgendaThe European Commission (EC) recently consulted on whether changes are needed to EU copyright law, and is now analysing the nearly 10,000 responses received, said Maria Martin-Prat, head of the copyright unit. She wouldn’t say what might be in the resulting “white paper” setting out the EC’s thinking, but hinted the document could possibly be out before the summer break.The consultation was driven by several factors, Martin-Prat said. Among these are that new technologies and services have strained copyright systems, as has the shift from content ownership to access. There is also a lot more content available due to the internet, raising issues of what to do about such things as works whose owners or rightsholders can’t be identified, she said. Another problem is the limited level of EU-wide harmonisation of exceptions and limitations, she said.If copyright rules need to be updated, it must happen at the EU level, Martin-Prat said. European Court of Justice decisions have clearly signalled that the margin of manoeuvrability left to EU governments to put copyright exceptions in place is much narrower now, and even giving them more flexibility in such matters has to be done at European level, she said.The EC plans to continue discussions in several areas, Martin-Prat said. It wants rights, limitations and exceptions and, possibly, enforcement to be defined as clearly as possible. There must be more solutions for mass digitisation of content, and mechanisms in copyright law to fairly remunerate creators. Martin-Prat believes that copyright is likely to remain high on the EC agenda but the commission would like the topic to be less contentious, she said. 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