August 28, 2004

WIPO Broadcast Treaty [3:20 pm]

Broadcast Treaty Battle Rages On

An international treaty to give broadcasters the right to control who may record, transmit, or distribute their signals is reaching a crucial stage of negotiation by the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva.

The current draft (PDF) incorporates many proposals, but the main ones most countries agree on give broadcasters 50 years’ worth of legal control over the recording, retransmission, and reproduction of their broadcast signals. These rights are separate from those of the owners of the actual content being broadcast.

[...] The idea that broadcasters should have rights enabling them to combat signal piracy is relatively uncontentious. Opponents such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Union for the Public Domain are concerned, however, that broadcast rights might lock up materials that should be freely available to the public.

Cory Doctorow, the London-based European Affairs Coordinator for the EFF, highlights two additional sources of worry. First, the US, represented in Geneva by the Patent Office, is demanding that the treaty include webcasting. If that proposal should pass, broadcast rights could apply to anything downloaded from any Web site, making it impossible to be sure whether even open-source software wasn’t covered.

Second, Doctorow said, one proposal in the draft treaty requires that receivers, defined as any device that can decrypt broadcasts, must incorporate technology to protect those broadcasts. As currently drafted, he believes that would include general-purpose computers.

See Ernest’s criticisms in Explain to Me Again Why We Need the Broadcast Flag Treaty

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