One of the major projects I worked on at the Electronic Frontier Foundation was working to kill the World Intellectual Property Organization's "Broadcast Treaty," a treaty that would have given a new form of copyright to broadcasters. Under this proposal, the mere act of broadcasting audio or video would trigger a new right for the broadcaster to control all copies made from that broadcast. This right wouldn't be subject to the same fair use or fair dealing rules, and would cover works that were in the public domain. It would also give broadcasters the right to control copies of works where the actual creator has explicitly allowed copies to be made, such as Creative Commons works.
The treaty died just around the time I left EFF, and I like to think I had a small part in killing this treaty. As did you, if you were one of the thousands and thousands of Boing Boing and Slashdot readers who contacted your government, or wrote to WIPO in protest. There was plenty to speak out about, such as the handouts opposing the treaty being spirited away and hidden in the toilets, or the WIPO administration trying to lock public interest groups out of important related meetings.
But now, the Broadcast Treaty is back, and with a vengeance. The new WIPO Broadcast Treaty incorporates the two most controversial proposals from the original one.
First, "technology neutrality," which is WIPO-speak for "this applies to the Internet," which is to say, YouTube and Vimeo would get to control copies of all the works that they stream (as would Hulu and other streaming services), even CC-licensed works, even public domain works, even uses that would be fair use or fair dealing under copyright.
Second, "technical measures," which is WIPO-speak for DRM. This means that laws that make it illegal to break DRM that's used to restrict access to copyrighted works would be extended to DRM that's used to restrict the use of uncopyrighted, uncopyrightable, public domain works, as well as Creative Commons-licensed works (even though the CC licenses actually prohibit the use of DRM in connection with them).
EFF is on the scene, and Gwen Hinze and Richard Esguerra have written a great primer on the issues at hand. Be prepared for another long and vicious fight, gang -- and watch out, the broadcasters want to steal the public domain from you.
It's Back: WIPO Broadcasting Treaty Returns From The Grave
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