Friday, September 22, 2006

WIPO's rediculous broadcasting treaty

For some time now WIPO, an organization whose sole intention seems to be expanding IP monopoly powers worldwide, has been trying to create a "broadcasting treaty" that would create an new set of intellectual property rights for "broadcasters", whether they operate on the airwaves, cable or the internet. These new rights, which are planned to last 50 years from the time of broadcast, appear to be separate from copyright and would operate in parallel to it. Personally, I can't even figure out what exactly WIPO wants to accomplish with these radical new broadcasting rights; it is not only public interest groups that oppose it, but also many large technology companies such as AT&T, Verizon, Sony, Intel, Dell, HP, and more. Of course, I suppose major broadcasters and Hollywood are in favor (if their silence is any clue).

WIPO is an unelected organization consisting of people whom the public knows nothing about, yet it is somehow empowered to write laws that the world has to follow. I find that pretty scary, and the history of their treatymaking is pretty scary too. Admittedly, part of my fear comes from the fact that I don't understand how it works and from whence its power comes. I would like to learn but I haven't found a very good source yet.

I don't see any way for individual citizens to influence WIPO, so all we can do is watch on the sidelines and hope they don't get their way. The EFF is doing what it can, of course, but NGOs don't have any real power and typically aren't allowed to speak at WIPO meetings. As EFF said about a meeting last week:
A large and diverse group of public interest organizations, artists, U.S telecommunications companies, consumer electronics companies, and related industry bodies turned up in force to oppose the current draft. Yet again, non-governmental organizations were not given an opportunity to present statements during the meeting. However, EFF distributed an open letter to WIPO signed by over 200 podcasters and podcasting organizations, together representing thousands of podcasters. The letter expressed podcasters' concerns that the treaty would increase complexity for rights clearance and harm the innovation environment for online communication technologies.
Anyway, I recommend reading EFF's page on the broadcasting treaty.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi qwerty - I just found your blog - I think I saw your entries with lots of photos once in a nudist site. Seems like you've got a job and moved out of home since then - congratulations. Anyway WIPO's policies are determined by its member states -all of which get a vote - some have more influence than others - and countries like US and Canada have more influence than most since they are active in the committees. If you don't like what WIPO is doing, take it up with yor own government - they're the ones that are suppoed to be representing their citizen's interests at WIPO. However, industries tend be be more active lobbyists. All the best. Berg

Qwertie said...

Hmm, in that case, I wonder why WIPO would have any power to expand IP powers at all, since stronger IP is generally against the interests of poor countries, and rich countries are in the minority. I assume there's a chance this treaty could come into effect, otherwise the EFF and a bunch of large companies wouldn't bother to come together to oppose it. The Wikipedia article mentions that the U.S. had trouble pushing its IP agenda through WIPO and so used the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) instead. But obviously, some interests must have thought it would be a good idea to develop this new treaty at WIPO...

Qwertie said...

Oh, and by the way, I'm back at school to finish my Computer Engineering degree.

Joey said...

Hi Qwertie

I enjoy reading your blog. I am also a naturist from New York and on the clothessfree forums.

Qwertie said...

Oh, cool. Hi Joey! Pleased to sort-of meet you.

Anonymous said...

The poor countries want investment from the rich countries - and the rich countries will only invest if they can be sure that there is some protection of their intellectual property - in a nutshell.
No point Ford, for example, investing in building cars in China if Ford's expensively produced car designs and technology secrets suddenly appear in every Chinese manufacturer's factory.

Cheers

Qwertie said...

I have to consider that explanation incomplete. It explains why poor countries would have IP protection for some things, but not others. For example, if a country hopes for investment in factories that produce cars for local sale, or other goods, then perhaps it would be in that country's interest to have laws protecting any of the important IP that a potential investor doesn't want copied (patents & trade secrets). However, beyond what is necessary to encourage investment, it's hard to see why poor countries would want stronger IP treaties. For example, copyrights that last more than 30 years, software patents, and this new broadcast treaty do not have anything to offer poor countries (that I can see)--and they certainly don't offer something of value to societies, whether rich or poor. Now, on another subject, the WTO approach makes more sense to me: a country can't join the WTO unless it adopts TRIPS; in this case, wise leaders would realize that TRIPS is a bad deal for them, but they may sign anyway if they feel that the benefits of WTO membership outweigh the penalties. In other words, in the WTO case, the rich countries have leverage to force adoption of IP laws. In the case of an individual treaty like the proposed broadcast treaty, however, I don't know what leverage the rich countries have. But I assume they have something...

Anonymous said...

the name implies the answer - money - that's what rich countries have and that's what the poor countries want - it's not about logic or sense, it's about power. the investing countries will do what they can to lengthen the protection and the recieving countries will do what they can to minimise it - the importnt thing is that there's a framework that allows people to get on with business. with no framework no investment will happen - for good or bad.

and it's pretty hard to draw a line around what ip protection is necessary for investment and what isn't - poor countries just don't money for investment for local production, they want it for export production - that's much more interesting than their own market which, by definition, doesn't have much money.

stay bare bro

berg