WIPO: 2005 General Assembly     


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IP Justice Media Release
5 October 2005

Contact: Robin D. Gross, IP Justice Executive Director
    Telephone: +1.415.553.6261
    Email: robin@ipjustice.org

2005 WIPO General Assembly Continues Support for Development Agenda
Broadcasting/Webcasting Treaty Negotiations to Conclude by 2007

(Geneva)  In its annual meeting from 26 Sept. - 5 Oct. 2005 in Geneva, the General Assemblies of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) remained firm in its commitment to incorporating a "Development Agenda" for reform at WIPO, a UN Specialized Agency.  Despite enormous pressure from the United States and Europe to relegate all efforts for reform at WIPO to the powerless Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development Related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD), the General Assembly decided to continue Inter-sessional Intergovernmental Meetings (IIM) for another year in a provisional committee.  

Originally supported by a 14-country coalition, the "Group of Friends of Development", the Development Agenda was adopted at the 2004 WIPO General Assembly in an effort to reform WIPO's practice of expanding intellectual property rights without evaluating the costs to society associated with the expanded rights.  Three IIMs were held in April, June, and July 2005 to discuss Member State proposals for reform, but virtually no substantive discussion took place. At the final IIM in July, the US and Japan prevented the "consensus" necessary to make a single substantive recommendation for reform at WIPO to the 2005 General Assembly.

The 2005 General Assembly agreed to convene a provisional committee to take the IIM process forward by holding two additional week-long meetings in Geneva in the next year to examine the Member State proposals, including the original proposal submitted by Brazil and Argentina in Fall 2004.  The provisional committee is charged with reporting any recommendations for reform at WIPO to the General Assembly in September 2006.  Additional Member State proposals submitted before the beginning of the first session will be also considered by the committee.

In July 2005, IP Justice, together with over 130 public-interest NGOs from all corners of the globe, signed a statement in support of the Friends of Development proposal for a Development Agenda at WIPO that was delivered to WIPO negotiators at the 3rd IIM session in Geneva.

"The commitment of the WIPO Member States to reform WIPO and incorporate a Development Agenda into its work by continuing the IIM process is very  encouraging," said Robin Gross, Executive Director of IP Justice, an international civil liberties organization that promotes balanced intellectual property laws. 

"For decades, little public attention has been paid to the activities of WIPO, an international organization that determines the legal rights of billions of people to access and use information.  Increased public scrutiny and enhanced participation from developing countries can bring the organization more in line with the public interest, rather than the current trend of benefiting narrow private interests," added Ms. Gross. 

IP-exporting nations, such the US and those in Western Europe have opposed developing countries' recent efforts to find a new balance for intellectual property rights, and stalled substantive discussions on a Development Agenda at WIPO for a year.  Those pushing hardest to expand IP rights at WIPO today are the same states that for centuries were regarded as "pirate nations" for flaunting foreign authors' rights.  Ironically, these same "developed" nations now refuse to allow today's developing countries the same path of economic development through less restrictive intellectual property rights.  For nearly 200 years, less restrictive IP rights provided the US with a competitive advantage, internationally, and was publicly advocated for as a means of protecting the US' national interests. 

More detailed analysis of the WIPO Development Agenda from IP Justice is available here.

Negotiations for Broadcasting/Webcasting Treaty to Conclude by 2007

Also at the 2005 WIPO General Assembly meeting, a compromise agreement was reached regarding negotiations for a controversial treaty that would grant a slew of new and unprecedented rights to broadcasting companies over the "signals" they transmit.  The proposed Broadcasting Treaty also threatens to include regulating Internet transmissions of audio-visual information (webcasting) on the sole insistence of the US Government. 

The 2005 General Assembly resisted pressure from the US and WIPO itself to immediately convene a Diplomatic Conference to begin treaty drafting; but it decided to hold at least two more meetings of the Standing Committee and Copyrights and Related Rights (SCCR) to finalize negotiations for a Broadcasting Treaty, with the view that a Diplomatic Conference be convened by 2007.   The SCCR will next meet 20-21 November 2005 to continue negotiations.

Artists oppose the proposed Broadcasting Treaty because it would give greater rights to Broadcasting companies than artists are given that could prevent artists from using recorded broadcasts of their own performances.  A large number of public-interest NGO's oppose the treaty because it would allow broadcasting companies to control public domain programming, disable the public's fair use rights and outlaw the circumvention of digital locks of programing - even if its in the public domain.   The proposed treaty would give broadcasting companies new rights to control information that they have neither created, nor own -- simply for "transmitting" the information.

"The proposed WIPO Broadcasting Treaty is nothing more than a giant give-away to 'special interests' at great public expense," said Robin Gross of IP Justice.  "No attempt has been made to justify the need for creating new and additional rights (that sit on top of copyrights) for broadcasting companies or webcasters.   And the unprecedented US proposal to include Internet transmissions within the scope of this treaty's regulation would be disastrous for the health and growth of the Internet," added Gross, a cyber-liberties attorney, "since it would regulate millions of existing webpages that legally transmit audio-visual entertainment." 

Led by the Consumer Project on Technology, a group of public-interest NGOs' (including IP Justice) signed a letter to the US Congress calling for public comment on the Webcasting provisions in the Broadcasting Treaty and requesting that the US block support for convening a Diplomatic Conference on the treaty.  The letter is open for additional signatures until 11 October 2005 and US citizens are strongly encouraged to sign-on to the letter to protect their liberty.

In theory, international treaties are intended to "harmonize" slight differences between national laws; but many of the new rights created in the broadcasting proposal currently exist no where in any nation's law, such as the unpopular webcasting provisions and the proposal's anti-circumvention measures.   The offenses frequently cited to justify the Broadcasting Treaty are already illegal under existing national and international laws, including copyright, and thus unnecessary.   The additional harm created by granting new rights for broadcasters cannot be justified.

More detailed analysis of the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty from IP Justice is available here.

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1. We reserve the right to control our individual experience of intellectual property.
2. Creators deserve to be compensated.
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5. "Copy Rights" come with "Copy Responsibilities."

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