WIPO Takes Broadcasting Treaty Negotiation Outside Geneva 04/07/2005 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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)[Editor’s Note: This story was modified on 6 July] The World Intellectual Property Organisation, a Geneva-based U.N. body, is holding informal, invitation-only talks on a treaty on broadcasters’ rights around the world rather than at its headquarters. The informal gatherings are not billed as negotiations, but rather are regional consultations aimed at “increasing governments’ understanding of the 16 treaty proposals and to further promote consensus at the regional level,” according to a WIPO official who stressed that WIPO is organising the meetings at the request of the host countries. But some WIPO member governments and accredited non-governmental organisations say they are concerned that WIPO will use the consensus it reaches informally in the regions to move the issue forward at the full multilateral level, which they say may be a tactic to dispel coordinated, cross-regional opposition among seasoned negotiators in Geneva. Many other member governments have supported the regional approach. According to an official invitation letter sent by WIPO for this week’s Latin America and Caribbean regional consultation in Colombia and obtained by IP-Watch, the regional meeting will discuss a “new, revised version” of the consolidated text of the treaty. The letter from Rita Hayes, WIPO deputy director-general responsible for copyright issues, was sent to technical experts in the governments, inviting them “personally” to attend the meeting and offering to pay much of their expenses. Hayes is participating in all of the consultations, an official said. The October 2004 WIPO General Assembly directed the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights to accelerate progress toward the conclusion of a broadcasting treaty. A copyright committee meeting in November addressed the issue but ended without agreement toward recommending a diplomatic conference (a high-level negotiating meeting). WIPO maintains that the chair’s conclusion of the copyright committee meeting “invited the secretariat to organise regional consultations.” The conclusions of all the regional meetings will be available in a separate document at the end of the consultative process, the WIPO official said. The series of regional meetings end in late July, and the General Assembly holds its annual meeting starting in late September. Some skeptical governments argue that the consultation approach is invalid since it arose from the November meeting whose outcome did not have the required consensus or vote called for in WIPO procedures. At the end of the meeting, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, India and Iran complained that the chairman did not follow proper procedure in moving forward with a draft treaty text. At the end of the meeting, the chairman asked for a sense of the committee on whether to proceed, and the five countries objected. But in an interview at the time, Hayes downplayed their objections, arguing there was an “overwhelming sense of the committee” to move forward. Those same governments were among those who raised concerns about an unrelated informal regional consultation in February on another issue considered critical to developed countries and to WIPO’s future — patent harmonisation. An invite-only February consultation in Casablanca, Morocco resulted in general agreement on a way forward, but some members said WIPO was not authorised to conduct substantive discussions without full membership participation. Of the vocal opponents of patent harmonisation, Brazil alone officially attended and at first stood alone in its opposition to the consultation outcome. The Casablanca proposal ran aground later in the spring when it came before the full WIPO membership. On the regional broadcasting treaty consultations, the WIPO official said that member states have invited WIPO to organise the meetings. They are “part of a process,” and member states are not bound by the results of the consultations, the official said, adding that the intent is to improve understanding of the proposals submitted by 16 governments. “The consultations are also seeking to promote consensus and to move forward on the few outstanding issues to facilitate the conclusion of the negotiating process,” the official said. “The regional meetings aim to enable governments to finalize their position individually and regionally on the proposals.” The program of each meeting is coordinated by the host country, according to WIPO. WIPO Mulls Second Copyright Committee Meeting in Geneva Part of the concern about the regional process appears to be that WIPO typically holds two SCCR meetings during the year between General Assembly meetings, but so far has held only one as the work-year is drawing to a close. The first SCCR was held in November, just weeks after the General Assembly, and now WIPO says it is looking at the possibility of a second one before the next assemblies but wants to complete the consultations first. The WIPO official also said the three-part Inter-sessional Intergovernmental Meeting on a possible development agenda (to be completed on 22 July) and the August summer break are creating scheduling conflicts. The first regional consultation was for Arab countries, held in Rabat, Morocco on 11 to 13 May. A separate consultation was held for rest of the African countries in Nairobi, Kenya from 17 to 19 May. Then a regional consultation for Caucasian, Central Asian and Eastern European countries was held in Moscow, Russia from 8 to 10 June. This week’s consultation is in Cartagena, Colombia from 4 to 6 July. The final two consultations will be for Central European and Baltic States in Bucharest, Romania, and for Asia-Pacific countries in Manila, The Philippines. All of the meetings are listed in English on WIPO’s Website as addressing the “protection of broadcasting organisations,” except the Central European and Baltic States, which is on the “rights” broadcasting organisations. New Draft Texts On Treaty, Webcasting As he called for after the November SCCR meeting, the chair has drafted a revised version of the comprehensive treaty text and a separate working paper on “non-mandatory” alternatives for the protection of webcasting and for simulcasting, which is webcasting by broadcasters. The new draft treaty text reflects discussions in the November meeting. In November, the United States was isolated in its support for the inclusion of webcasting in the broadcasting treaty, and it was agreed to take it out for separate and later consideration. A compromise proposal by the European Commission to include only simulcasting met with more support but also was put aside because it was also seen as a type of webcasting. The webcasting working paper includes alternatives to extend protections to webcasters and to webcasting broadcasters through provisions added to the treaty or as a protocol to the treaty. One option would allow countries to take reservations to the provision. Non-governmental Groups Balk At Regional Strategy Another effect of holding substantive meetings outside of Geneva is that it makes it difficult for non-governmental groups opposing the treaty to attend the talks. “It used to be that the Standing Committee on Copyrights and Related Rights met twice a year,” said Cory Doctorow, European affairs coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “NGOs could turn up at meetings because they are accredited” to attend in Geneva. “But they have venue-changed,” he said. “In regional meetings, the presence of NGOs is very ambiguous.” Doctorow said the purpose may to break up unified opposition in Geneva. “We see it as a divide and rule strategy,” he said. At the SCCR, countries like Egypt, Brazil, India got together to oppose the broadcasting treaty. Now those countries will have to face off somewhat alone against their regions. “It’s like a teacher separating the naughty students,” Doctorow said. In addition, the change in venue came just after NGOs were “making headway” in their participation on the issue with the help of the “single logistics” of holding meetings in Geneva. “All of the knowledge [of logistics such as where to stay cheaply] goes out the window,” Doctorow said. “For cash-strapped NGOs, it’s a fairly punishing blow.” Robin Gross, executive director of IP Justice, views the broadcasting as a “special interest” proposal to give new rights to broadcasting companies that currently do not exist in national laws. An example she gave is the proposal to give broadcasting companies new rights to prohibit consumers from bypassing digital locks on programming, even if it is in the public domain. Artists also dislike the treaty out of concern that it will give new rights to their performances to the broadcasting companies, Gross said. IP Justice, which has analyzed the draft treaty section by section, has published a “top 10 reasons to reject the treaty.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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) Related "WIPO Takes Broadcasting Treaty Negotiation Outside Geneva" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.