UNESCO's bizarre World Anti-Piracy Observatory

Claude sez,
UNESCO announced the launch of its World Anti-Piracy Observatory in a YouTube video on April 21, 2010, but according to French Wikipedia - an entry coyly started as "" - the idea hearkens back to 2005, and reeks of it.

Particularly notable: WAPO's "collection of national copyright laws", where each country's page is linked to a "Disclaimer" in which UNESCO claims copyright on the content of the collection and restricts its use to educational, non commercial purposes - even though in most cases, they simply downloaded the copyright law from the official site, renamed the file and re-uploaded it on the UNESCO server.

There are also some gems of inaccuracy in the countries' PDFs that are linked to in the sections of WAPO that are listed in the left column - but putting copyright laws that are either in the public domain or copyrighted to the country's parliament under UNESCO's own copyright is the next-to-worst one. The worst one being, of course the use of the word "piracy" - which even WIPO has given up long ago.

As messages about these and other issues sent by several people to the address provided in WAPO's "Contact Us" page remain systematically unanswered, it would be nice if BoingBoing could write something about WAPO, because it would be more difficult for them to ignore it.

World Anti-Piracy Observatory (Thanks, Claude!)


  1. Careful, UNESCO does way more good for the world than the copyfighters movement ever will. You should be trying to help them correct their mistakes, not attacking them.

  2. I just finished watching the video a second time and reviewing their website a second time. When they say piracy they aren’t talking about file sharing. They’re talking about the appropriation of the work of artists and writers in poor countries by large commercial enterprises.

    You’re just defending neo-imperialism.

    1. @ Stephen:

      Re #1: Several people tried to “help UNESCO correct their mistakes” by e-mailing the contact address for WAPO or by commenting on the YT video since April 23: none of the e-mails were answered and the YT comments are still awaiting moderation. See http://blog.allmend.ch/2010/04/24/unesco-collection-of-national-copyright-laws-call-for-public-domain-calculator/ and comments.

      Re #2: Of course UNESCO does a lot of good things too. But this is precisely why they should not mar their good work with such an ill-conceived, outdated approach to copyright issues.

      Re #3: This is the argument in the video. But look at WAPO’s “Best Practices” page (1), where they recommend – via p. 13 of their PDF File for Argentina (2) – the uses of IFPI’s Digital File Check (DFC), to be downloaded from http://www.ifpi.org/dfc/downloads/dfc.html , which is actually an embedded .swf file you can’t copy from, inaccessible to people who have to use a screen reader, and which anyway does not indicate system specifications. UNESCO’s description in that “Best Practices” page says:

      “Software that indicates to users whether an electronic, downloadable article is legal or not can reduce piracy rates over the Internet. Such software reinforces the initiatives to educate internet users on the consequences of internet piracy and helps decrease the rates of illegal downloading.”

      But the FAQ files of DFC (only accessible after installation) say:

      “Q. Are the music and film files I find through Digital File Check legal or illegal?
      Digital File Check will show you both legal and illegal files. It won’t automatically delete illegal files, but it will give you basic information to judge for yourself whether files are illegal or not (see ‘How can I distinguish between legal and illegal files’). It is then up to you to decide whether to delete them or not, if you want to avoid breaking the law.”


      “Q. How can I distinguish between legal and illegal files in my shared folders?
      First, use Digital File Check to check the files in the ‘shared folders’ section of your computer. The shared folders highlighted are used by the file-sharing software on your computer to distribute music, videos and other files on file-sharing networks, often in huge quantities.
      If copyrighted files are sitting in your shared folder, it means they are likely to be available to people far and wide on the internet. They are also likely to have been illegally copied or downloaded.
      So, if you have copyrighted music or videos in your shared folders, you are likely to be breaking the law. You may wish to delete these files.”

      which is a far cry from UNESCO-WAPO’s decription.

      Moreover, when IFPI.org launched DFC in 2005, they insisted on its use for parents who don’t understand what their kids are up to on the net – see http://www.ifpi.org/content/section_news/20050922.html . So there is a strong risk of parents deleting perfectly legal files their children might need for school work with DFC. Especially if the parents have been reading stories of huge fines against file-sharers and shotgun settlement proposals sent by IFPI through registered mail.

      Finally, re protecting poor countries: is the requirement to quote laws of these countries as copyrighted to UNESCO really consistent with that? See the [Disclaimer] page (3) linked in the page for Benin (3) – and in all the other countries’ pages – in UNESCO’s “Collection of National Copyright Laws”



      I’ve put the references to UNESCO’s pages in notes because the URLs are very long:

      (1) http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=39514&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

      (2) http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=39514&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

      (3) http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=29952&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

      (4) http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=37810&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

      1. Thankyou. You saved me an hour of pretending im doing work while instead gathering links to tear Stephen’s comments apart.

        3 Posts before anyone else comments? I smell a troll.

  3. An effective anti-piracy campaign is one that provides and promotes free software as an alternative. Yes, that might adversely affect the bottom line of commercial software vendors, but the objective of the anti-piracy campaign should not be too boost their profits. The same goes for music.

    Another thing that can be done is to reduce copyright terms. If the term is shortened, many more works will be freed up into the public domain. With lots of free alternatives to choose from, the desire to pirate would be reduced. This decreases criminal law breaking activity.

  4. Cyberpunk happening in the real world. Dont you think WAPO rhymes with GESTAPO? They Arelys killing our Freedom.

  5. gave a first look to the collection of laws.
    the italian copyright law was updated in 2008. the published version dates back to 2003.

  6. Mail to their address is now bouncing, at least from my part of the world (Canada):

    This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.

    Delivery to the following recipients failed.


    Reporting-MTA: dns;MAILSERVER-01.hq.int.unesco.org Received-From-MTA: dns;ironport2-in.hq.unesco.org Arrival-Date: Fri, 7 May 2010 17:12:32 +0200
    Final-Recipient: rfc822;copyright.law@unesco.org Action: failed Status: 5.1.1

  7. @gualtierod: true, the page for Italy in WAPO’s “Collection of national copyright laws” says “”Updated: 2006-03-21 4:17 pm” But then the file properties for that 2003 English version say that the file was made 07/07/05 by SIAE, which apparently has not yet produced an English translation of the 2008 version. To be fair, the 2008 version is not easy to find even in Italian: see Guido Scorza’s Alla ricerca delle leggi perdute Punto Informatico, Dec. 9, 2009 (for those who don’t read Italian, Google language tools render it passably in English, apart from the title and a few bungled pronouns and possessives).

    @freetard: The address given in WAPO’s Contact Us page is antipiracy@unesco.org. It doesn’t bounce, but no one answers either, apparently.

    @Stephen: thanks for the webmaster’s address.

  8. Two of the documents for UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Copyright Committee – 14th Session (to take place June 7-9, 2010) concern UNESCO’s “anti-piracy” activities and WAPO.

    “UNESCO World Anti-Piracy Observatory IGC(1971)/XIV/5B” explains that WAPO’s country profiles actually represent 52% of UNESCO’s member countries, and offers a breakdown by “electoral colleges” of this representation.

    Then “Piracy: current trends and non-legislative measures to counteract it IGC(1971)/XIV/5A” – “prepared by Luis Villarroel, Director of Research of Corporacion Innovarte, Director of the Legal Research Centre of Chile Central University and former Vice-President of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights” – offers welcomely accurate information:

    – about the concept of “piracy” whose sole official mention is in WTO’s TRIPS, but is used neither by WIPO nor in other official national or international legal texts about copyright
    – about the absence of official figures concernng “piracy”, the only available ones coming from the industry
    – about the inefficiency of technical protection measures
    – about the need to internationalize restrictions to copyright in favor of users, for instance to insure equal accessibility for all.
    – about promoting FOSS and contents under open licenses as a means to reduce the use of counterfeit software and the illegal offer of copyrighted works.

    Let’s hope that UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Copyright Committee – who was at the origin of WAPO, according to “UNESCO World Anti-Piracy Observatory IGC(1971)/XIV/5B” – will receive Prof. Villaroel’s recommendations in their June session, and thus re-orient UNESCO’s copyright policy from the present WAPO’s “pirate hunting” line advocated by the content industry towards more balanced activities that both protect authors’ right to get a fair remuneration for their works and users’ rights to access knowledge and information.

  9. Some have reviewed deeply the WAPO website especially the topic concerning the Observatory, I haven’t seen any “big brother” or “gestapo” siliness that some people are commenting about.

    It seems that some of the comments come from people like Claude work for some capitalistic firms and are not confortable with the observatory.

    WAPO make clear that the information on the website come from the Member States and are not their inventions. So if Italy gave UNESCO a copyright law dates back to 2003, it means that it is the responsability of Italy to give the appropriate copyright law, especially when they have signed the Universal Copyright Convention.

    I wrote to UNESCO about the fact too. They actually replied to me… though a bit later, but I can understand that the staff were more likely to prepare the Intergovernmental committee than looking for copyright laws that some memeber states forget to sent to them.

    Thanks to the constructive criticism that I have read from the comments.

Comments are closed.