First-ever look inside a WIPO treaty negotiation (day 1 of 3)

I'm at the World Intellectual Property Organization's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, along with the largest-ever public-interest coalition in WIPO history, We've all come to oppose the Broadcast Treaty (which will make the Web illegal and require the world's governments to mandate the design everything that can receive a signal, from a PC to a radio) and the proposed Database Treaty (which would let people who'd amassed public, uncopyrightable facts turn them into their exlusive property).

There's no transparency into this process for most of the world. The doors are locked, the minutes are sealed, and you need to be accredited just to sit in the room.

There's no connectivity in the room, but by publishing and using an ad-hoc WiFi network in the main room, three of us (me, my cow-orker Wendy Seltzer, and David Tannenbaum from the Union for the Public Domain) were able to collaborate on note-taking on the first half-day's session using SubEthaEdit, the brilliant and unique Mac app.

The speaking style at these events is "diplomatic" --slow, formal and thick with coded and subtle messages. Between the three of us we were able to untangle some of the speech and tease out some analysis. I think that our point-form notes are a really good, comprehensive view of the meeting.

* Brazil: We've been at this for ages. No real and substantive discussions have taken place. There's no clear understanding of the potential economic and social impact of database protection. A study that was comissioned by WIPO on database copying in Latin America indicated from the Latin American perspective that regulation is premature. It's detrimental to innovation, science, education, access, etc., particularily in developing countries. In the light of this we want to question the usefulness and convenience of maintaining this on the agenda. This isn't unfinished business, the lacklustre engagement of the committee tells us that this is business we don't want to engage in, and this gets in the way of other business we might choose to address. We ask to have this permanently deleted from the agenda.

* ALA: The database protection issue in US Congress is significantly controversial, highly unlikely to pass in this Congress. Agree with Brazil, let's take this off the table here. Congress called this a "Solution in search of a problem" -- there's more databases than ever, why do we need this. We don't see a consensus or a need for protection.

* Ecuador: On behalf of Latin American and Caribbean group, I would like to make a general statement. We don't think that this should be on the agenda now.

* India: Should everyone who produces work by sweat of the brow come here for protection? This isn't creative labour. There's no allegation of widespread copying of non-original databases. Even if there were, the question relevant for this organization is whether this body should be considering nonoriginal databases. Where there's no creativity, databases are assets; that's the apporpriate concern to address by misappropriation, but not intellectual property. Perhaps soem other rubric, some other forum is appropriate. Many entities need protection of sweat of brow assets but we shouldn't have all of them approaching WIPO for a remedy.

If EU wants to protect nonoriginal databases, EU can. It's important to leave industry space to develop. at this stage, we need a more careful learning process, not laws that inhibit industry rather than facilitate. Database protection is premature now. Even in long term, it may not be appropriate for WIPO. We recommend the issue be deleted from the Standing Committee's agenda.

* US delegation: We think that this should remain on the agenda. We need to exchange more information about what this is and how it works where it's been adopted.