The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is looking at proposals that would extend copyright and allow broadcasters to control re-use of their materials—and withhold permissions for the material’s use even if they do not own the copyright to the material.

“Creating or expanding such rights would raise new legal barriers to expressive activity that is legal today,” states the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT).

A CDT report states the treaty would “greatly complicate the task of getting clearances to use copyrighted material; discourage expression that qualifies as fair use or fair dealing; exacerbate the orphan works problem; and chill otherwise lawful distribution of information.”

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Having such rights would enable a broadcaster to withhold permission for use of any content it has distributed to the public, even if the broadcaster does not own the copyright to the material.

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This has been on the table for the past 12 years, with the WIPO debating how this could work. According to the CDT, “Controversy has centered on whether a treaty should give broadcasters new or expanded exclusive rights, akin to copyright rights; and whether such rights should be extended not just to traditional over-the-air broadcasters but also to those who distribute programming over cable or Internet infrastructure.”

It states “Having such rights would enable a broadcaster (or other content distributor) to withhold permission for use of any content it has distributed to the public, even if the broadcaster does not own the copyright to the material.”

Although it has been stalled for years, this could change. Documents proposing a framework with a focus on exclusive rights was released in June, after a session of WIPOʼs Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR)

A November SCCR session came to similar conclusions, with a statement also suggesting an exclusive-rights-based proposal. The next session will be held in July 2012.

The CDT concludes, “The creative use of information online is critical to economic and human development. Copyright law needs to strike a balance between the protection of copyrighted material and the ability to access such material and to re-use and re-disseminate it for creative purposes. As nations participate in negotiations towards a WIPO treaty for the protection of broadcasters, civil society advocates should work with their national delegations to WIPO to focus on solving the “signal theft” problem without creating or broadening exclusive rights for broadcasters on top of existing copyright protections. Additional and expanded exclusive rights are unnecessary and would be harmful to online free expression.”

(Image courtesy of John Bauer, via Wikimedia Commons)

About The Author

Joshua Philipp is the founder and editor of TechZwn.com. He's also an award-winning journalist at Epoch Times.

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