TWN Info Service
on WTO and Trade Issues (Sept09/24)
to revive talks on broadcasting, audiovisual treaties
Geneva, 29 Sep (Sangeeta Shashikant) -- Attempts have been made at the current annual meetings of the Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to resurrect talks on a treaty for the protection of broadcasting organizations as well as a treaty on audiovisual performances.
This emerged during discussions on the work programme of WIPO's Copyright Committee (SCCR). The annual Assemblies are being held from 22 September to 1 October.
While discussions on the broadcasting treaty are ongoing in the SCCR, actual negotiations on the treaty have come to a halt since 2007 as a result of wide divergences among WIPO Members over the scope, objectives and object of protection of the treaty. Negotiations on the audiovisual performances treaty have stalled since a failed Diplomatic Conference in 2000.
On the issue of limitations and exceptions to copyright (L&E), while there was strong support from developing countries to expedite discussions and move toward international norm-setting on the matter, including on the treaty proposal by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay relating to "Limitations and Exceptions: Treaty Proposed by the World Blind Union (WBU)" (SCCR/18/5), developed countries remained largely non-committal.
The General Assembly (GA) heard the views of Members on each of these issues, and noted the Secretariat's report on these issues contained in document WO/GA/38/5. The Secretariat's report is a factual account of the status of discussions on the issues as well as activities that it has organized on the matter. It also states that the issue of L&E together with the issues of protection of broadcasting organizations and of audiovisual performances will be maintained on the Agenda of the nineteenth SCCR session scheduled to meet in December.
With regards to
discussions on the broadcasting treaty,
[The 2006 General Assembly conditioned the convening of a Diplomatic Conference for a treaty on the protection of broadcasting organizations on Members reaching agreement on the objectives, specific scope and object of protection of a signal-based treaty. This mandate was reiterated in the 2007 GA decision.]
The EC's proposal
was strongly opposed by the
The US further said that the terms of the 2006 GA mandate are consistent with well-established WIPO policy and practice for convening a successful Diplomatic Conference, which strongly favours reaching agreement on the principal provisions of a treaty text before convening a Diplomatic Conference. The EU's proposal could set an unfortunate precedent for other WIPO Committees, it added.
While some developing
countries supported discussions on the broadcasting treaty, others such
At the last meeting of the SCCR (eighteenth session, held in May 2009), the Committee: (I) agreed that the Secretariat would commission a study on the socioeconomic dimension of the unauthorized use of signals, including the impact of the lack of access on the one hand and the need for an effective protection for broadcasters for discussion on the other hand, for the twentieth session; (ii) reaffirmed its willingness to continue its work on the protection of broadcasting organizations on a signal-based approach, according to the mandate of the 2007 General Assembly; and (iii) invited the Secretariat to organize regional and national seminars upon the request of Member States or regional groups on the objectives, specific scope and object of protection of a possible draft treaty and took note of the proposal to organize regional consultations.
On the issue of an audiovisual performances treaty, there appeared to be some enthusiasm for resuming negotiations from where Members left off following the failed Diplomatic Conference in 2000. While the Diplomatic Conference reached provisional agreement on 19 Articles, no agreement was found on the issue of the transfer of rights from the audiovisual performer to the producer (Article 12). The Diplomatic Conference recommended to the 2001 WIPO Assemblies that they "reconvene the Diplomatic Conference for the purpose of reaching agreement on outstanding issues".
However, during the 2001 WIPO Assemblies, Members considered that it was necessary to continue consultations to resolve the deadlock over the above-mentioned provision. Since then, the issue has remained on the agenda of the SCCR and the General Assemblies but the reconvening of the Diplomatic Conference has not yet taken place (see AP/IM/09/INF/3).
On 8 September,
WIPO facilitated informal open-ended consultations on the protection
of audiovisual performances. On these consultations,
countries also expressed general support for the audiovisual performances
On the issue of limitations and exceptions, there was strong support from developing countries to expedite discussions on the matter, including on the treaty proposal by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay relating to "Limitations and Exceptions: Treaty Proposed by the World Blind Union (WBU)" (SCCR/18/5) submitted at the last session of the SCCR.
The Secretariat's report on this issue states that it is preparing documents identifying the most important features of limitations and exceptions in the various domains based on the four studies commissioned by the Secretariat, as well as addressing the international dimension and possibly categorizing the main legislative solutions for the nineteenth SCCR session to be held in December. The report also mentions that a revised draft questionnaire on L&E will be presented at the upcoming session and will include questions regarding implications of digital technology in the field of copyright, including as they relate to social, cultural and religious limitations and exceptions.
The report adds that the "SCCR has acknowledged the special needs of visually impaired persons and has stressed the importance of dealing, without delay and with appropriate deliberation, with those needs of the blind, visually impaired, and other reading disabled persons, including discussions at the national and international level on possible ways and means of facilitating and enhancing access to protected works".
The report also refers to a stakeholders' platform established following the seventeenth SCCR session and that involves major stakeholders, including representatives of copyright holders and reading impaired persons, to explore the specific needs, concerns, and possible approaches to facilitating access to works in formats suitable for people with reading impairment.
The report adds that the SCCR also requested the Secretariat to ensure the effective participation, and to make available funding to support the participation of stakeholders from developing and least developed countries. The Secretariat shall make its best efforts to organize a meeting of the platform in a developing country. The report adds that the treaty proposal together with other possible proposals and contributions by the Members of the Committee will be discussed at the upcoming session of the SCCR. (For proceedings and decisions of the eighteenth session of the SCCR, see SUNS #6711 dated 3 June 2009).
Ecuador, on behalf of GRULAC (the group of Latin American and Caribbean countries), said that the treaty proposal will facilitate and improve access to protected works for the benefit of blind, visually impaired and others with reading difficulty. It also welcomed support for the proposed treaty, adding that it was ready to begin discussion on this proposal at the next meeting of the Committee.
Ecuador also noted that the draft treaty proposed does not undermine in any way the broad agenda of the SCCR on L&E to copyright, which includes other key sectors such as education, libraries, archives and innovative services, as stated in the proposal made by Chile, Brazil, Nicaragua and Uruguay concerning the work on L&E (SCCR/16/2). It further noted that the treaty proposal is consistent with the objectives of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
On the issue of general L&E, the US said that the current Berne Convention framework, which allows countries to balance the competing claims of authors and the broad public at the national level, is working well and thus it was not convinced of the need to undertake norm-setting activities at the international level related to exceptions and limitations, given the success of the Berne framework.