WIPO's Broadcasting Treaty is back: a treaty to end the public domain, fair use and Creative Commons

The UN's World Intellectual Property Organization's Broadcasting Treaty is back. This is the treaty that EFF and its colleagues killed five years ago, but Big Content won't let it die. Under the treaty, broadcasters would have rights over the material they transmitted, separate from copyright, meaning that if you recorded something from TV, the Internet, cable or satellite, you'd need to get permission from the creator and the broadcaster to re-use it. And unlike copyright, the "broadcast right" doesn't expire, so even video that is in the public domain can't be used without permission from the broadcaster who contributed the immense creativity inherent in, you know, pressing the "play" button. Likewise, broadcast rights will have different fair use/fair dealing rules from copyright -- nations get to choose whether their broadcast rights will have any fair dealing at all. That means that even if you want to reuse video in a way that's protected by fair use (such as parody, quotation, commentary or education), the broadcast right version of fair use might prohibit it.

Worst of all: There's no evidence that this is needed. No serious scholarship of any kind has established that creating another layer of property-like rights will add one cent to any country's GDP. Indeed, given that this would make sites like Vimeo and YouTube legally impossible, it would certainly subtract a great deal from nations' GDP -- as well as stifling untold amounts of speech and creativity, by turning broadcasters into rent-seeking gatekeepers who get to charge tax on videos they didn't create and whose copyright they don't hold.

And since the broadcast right is separate from copyright, permissive copyright licenses like Creative Commons would not apply. That means that if you made a CC-licensed video -- as tens of millions of creators have -- that the web-host, the cablecaster, the satellite company or the broadcaster that made it available to the public could essentially strip off the license you provided and go back to an all-rights-reserved model, with them in the driver's seat.

Thanks, WIPO, for showing us once again what a corrupt, anti-creator, anti-free-speech, economically backwards waste of time and space you are.

During the last hours of the meeting, the WIPO Committee pursued discussions that led to the adoption of a single text titled “Working document for a treaty on the protection of broadcasting organizations” (which has not been published as of today)3. This working document will constitute the basis of further discussions to be undertaken in November in Geneva, which WIPO hopes will conclude with a consensus document to be signed as a treaty early 2013. If WIPO convenes this conference it is because members have reached a decision and a new treaty may be born.

This procedural detail is a really important one — despite there being no international consensus, WIPO is pushing for a treaty to be signed quickly. This is actually a cruel trend in other WIPO negotiations. In the past, it has seemed like the WIPO bureaucracy has pushed for a conclusion of treaties just because they have been in negotiation for a long period of time. For example, another long-running negotiation led to the adoption of a treaty about performance rights that was opposed by many.

We urge country Members to say no to the WIPO Broadcasting treaty—as they have said in the past. We continue to believe the preferable model for addressing these issues is the narrower signal-based approach in the Brussels Satellite Convention.

Negotiations for a 2014 WIPO Broadcasting Treaty Are Back


  1. Jesus fucking christ in a chicken basket.

    Don’t these arseholes ever stop? It’s like the zombie apocalypse of fuckwittery.

    1. “Don’t these arseholes ever stop?”
      No – and they won’t. Their disdain for democracy and free speech is only matched by their persistence and work ethic. Evil never sleeps!

        1. Yes, that’s the point.
           “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty—power is ever stealing from the many to the few…. The hand entrusted with power becomes … the necessary enemy of the people.”
          — Wendell Phillips – or, Thomas Jefferson, or, well, you get the idea…

    2. There’s only two solutions. The nuclear option (wipe all  IP rights from the face of the earth and start from scratch) or the arctic solution (freeze all changes to IP right henceforth indefinitely). 

      1. There is another way.  We need to create a new Internet.  One that is free of corporate and government influence, has no borders, is free and open to all and is not beholden to the special interests, and travels through no-one’s back yard.  It should be made out of light, is crowd-sourced, adaptable, distributed and self-correcting.  All of that is possible with today’s technology.  We just have to want it bad enough and reach out to each other and MAKE it.

        1. I’m not worried about the future of networks being able to operate. Any massive organism such as the internet will evolve defense strategies against attacks, such as darknets, p2p networks, ad-hoc routing etc. The response of the internet super organism will be messy and unorganized, but it’ll work more or less in a fashion.

          What I’m worried about is that the economic value we derive out of being able to use a network will be severely hampered because legal entities can’t use means to conduct their business that’ve been outlawed. It doesn’t matter much to the networked crowd at large. But it does matter to companies who’ll be increasingly cut-off from the only viable networking route open to them.

    3. No. They won’t stop until the stuff they’re trying to get rid of is enshrined into law. The Public-Domain Preservation Act or something.

  2. can we just find these people, get em all together and explain to them that they are fuckin dumb and their “views” were outdated 50 years ago and they can just progress to retirement and hopefully die contently of old age where they don’t annoy anyone with their backwards disposition? 

      1. Ever thought about them being the same things?  —  I mean, not literally  —  but rather, they’re just both “things” to some people. Especially for people who money isn’t ever a concern for…just a means to control the end.

      1.  Nah Ayn Rand advocated a whole different kind of crap. She never would have supported needless bureaucratization of simple legal principles, even the ones she supported like IP. These clowns are taking a page from Mussolini, and from 1984 (the revised version that they read as a manual rather than a warning). And more to point, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Leo Strauss. It’s important to get your demagogues and ideologues straight if you want to impugn people by implied association :)

  3. Sounds like a land grab. The game is to the quickest. Can’t we just broadcast all the pd stuff first, giving us the broadcast rights, and thus prevent them broadcasting any pd stuff without having to give us pots of moolah?

    1. Even better: broadcast (either on YouTube or at 3 AM on some public access TV station) someone reading the full text of this proposed treaty. Then warn the negotiators they could be liable for broadcast right infringement damages (which given Big Content are probably going to be substantial) if this goes through.

  4. The tech industry will lobby to kill this. Big Content is not the biggest kid on the block. IT is. If the tech industry pulls their collective heads from their collective asses and really starts matching or exceeding Big Content’s lobbying, then Hollywood and their ilk would simply go out of business the way we want them to (or they’d start making content for 21st century distribution channels instead of chaining themselves to a sinking ship).

    Frankly, we need Google and other tech companies to just start matching Hollywood dollar for dollar until Hollywood finally realizes how small, insignificant and easily replaced they actually are.

    Sure, it’s not the ideal solution. It’s not a grass-roots movement of citizens rising up to make their voices heard over the sea of corruption and greed that is “democracy” today. But it would work until we come up with something better.

      1. Remember the SOPA blackout? SOPA became a dirty word after that, and it died with a whimper.

        If you try to screw the tech sector, we’ll be happy to respond in kind. By the way, guess who ultimately controls that critical infrastructure you depend on, and can yank it out from under you without notice?

        On most issues, geeks will disagree and nearly neutralize one another. But that’s lulled politicians into thinking we’re docile. Step on our toes as a whole, and we’ll kick so hard they won’t know what hit them.

        There’s only so many times your name can be smeared as “bad” to every user of the Internet until you’re voted out.

      2.  Well the companies may not be run by techies, but the techies know the tech so they can circumvent these initiatives in their spare time. They’ll gladly do it free of charge. How can you fight something with business that people do for their own believes free of charge in their spare time?

  5. Recall how Scripps fraudulently induced Youtube to take down NASA videos? I have the disturbing impression that the new treaties would legitimize and encourage this sort of misbehavior.

    1. Not necessarily fraudulent. Could have been an automatically generated take down notice. But, this does raise a question: Is the broadcast right limited to just what the broadcaster broadcasted, or does it extend to the original content as well? And even if the right is limited, there would still be the issue of proving that any subsequent broadcast of the original content was not a rebroadcast of the first broadcast. Yes, I know that, techinically, the burden of proof is on the first broadcaster, but the cost of responding to allegations is almost always greater than the cost of paying the “royalties”, so only big enough (or well known enough) creators would be able to avoid paying “big content” for access to the means of distribution.

  6. I’m sick and tired of this, every time we fight and we win, they just hit back with an even more Draconian and Orwellian ‘Law’, or ‘treaty’, or ‘agreement’  . Or worse, just say fuck it and call their pals at the FBI and DOJ. Well enough is enough, I’m sick of always being on the defensive. Our organizations and groups are all on the defensive. We need a new plan, a new battlefront. One that will strike directly at their empire of evil. One that will land our troops at their own shores. We need to say STOP, ENOUGH. We, The People of the world will not tolerate this  anymore, We don’t want more copyright laws, more monopoly protectionism, more privacy and property violations. We want a Copyright and IP REFORM. No, not ever-expanding laws for monopoly right that reach well into the next millennium. NO, what we want is LESS Monopolies, LESS artificial scarcity, LESS  ‘enforcement’, LESS Vague Patents that don’t do anything, LESS treaties LESS ‘free trade agreements’. What we do want is MORE Public Domain, MORE Fair Use, MORE Fair Dealings, MORE direct control over OUR property rights, SHORTER Copyright monopolies, SHORTER Patent Monopolies, SHORTER DRUG Monopoly.

    1. I think one first step would be to stop thinking of these things in metaphors. They don’t have to be Draconian or Orwellian, they’re already American. As long as your mind only connects reality to literary concepts, you can safely ignore the fact that this shit is actually going on. “If Roger Zelazny was President, we wouldn’t be having these problems.”

  7. Could’t some enterprising company corner the market on wholly creator-generated content by offering to relinquish the broadcast right? The broadcaster still needs permission from the creator to broadcast the work, correct? (Permission which on the Web is usually granted by an “I accept” button on a lengthy click-through license that nobody ever reads, but still. If the company made this a selling point and wasn’t shitty about their standard license…) Any aggrieved copyright holder could say “no” to abusive broadcasters. 

    It’d obviously still be a big fucking problem overall, but maybe with these assholes being more flagrant with their assholery, there’d be ways to leverage not being an asshole.

    1. The problem here is that, except for true “over the air” broadcasting, every entity between the content and the viewer could be considered a broadcaster for purposes of broadcast rights – the web host, its ISP, any backbone and/or CDN providers the content traverses, the viewer’s ISP, and possibly even the manufacturers of every router/gateway/whatever the content goes through. Creators could be left with no practical way to distribute their content without a multitude of middlemen claiming rights on that content.

  8. I was just wondering if anyone noticed, when we’re talking about “Big Content,” that it would only take a small change in documentation for a big aggregator of out-of-copyright works (for example, the one that scanned the Bodleian, Stanford, and Harvard libraries) to be considered a broadcaster.  

    Does that mean Google would then “own” all the old books in the world?  That would be worth losing You Tube over…

    1. That would depend on whether the broadcast right extended to the original content. If so, then effectively, yes. (see my other post on extent of broadcast right)

  9. seriously STOP just FUCKING STOP!
    this is how the law works these days:
    1: propose bill
    2: if rejected goto 1

    we need to change copyright. i don’t care if it results in some reduction of content, i dont care if the entire content industry collapses. its nice to have but you know something i like having more? my fucking civil liberties! just STOP you are only hurting yourself and everyone else.

  10. There’s something important being missed here.  Treaties are different from State or Federal laws that can be overturned as unconstitutional or revoked by the Legislature and President.  The Supremacy Clause takes president over Constitutional law and only a Constitutional amendment can change that.  If the United States agrees to a treaty that violates one of the rights in our Bill of Rights then that right gets revoked.  Yes, there are legal traditions about avoiding that situation, but those are traditional views and not legally binding views.  We have to be extremely aware and cautious about what the United States agrees to in a treaty.  


  11. From this it seems obvious that the goal of WIPO is no longer to enforce regulation on stuff certain companies own. Instead it appears to be aimed at preventing the existence of any alternative to commercially exploited copyrighted material.

    What is the reasonable way to respond to an existential threat by convicted monopolists?

    1.  Do SOPA-style blackouts again?

      Lots of tech companies aren’t gonna be happy about this (I’m pretty sure Google wouldn’t be happy if youtube suddenly became basically illegal), and if we can get even just a couple of the Big Boys of the internet world on board with this, this stupid treaty’ll die with a whimper just like SOPA did.

  12. And to witness the gun nuts hyperventilating like crazy fuckers on the UN Small Arms Treaty (which had NOTHING to do with US gun control laws) while WIPO is ready to sell us all to big TeeVee and cable.

    Dear God! Will the rubes ever learn to discriminate signal from noise?

    As for the UN bureaucrats, bring me a US administration that will refuse to pay its UN dues until the cretins get booted out of office forever.

    Enough already!

  13. Haha, don’t worry about it. I’ve got something for them…I just so happened to be doing some research & stumbled upon some of this nonsense – as in, around the first time the idea was even proposed. Word of advice for the future though: take screen shots of the really important stuff (I did). It blows my mind that 4 different pages on 4 different websites got deleted less than 18 hours after I accessed them. I’m not screaming “conspiracy” or anything, but I’m sure as hell not naive enough to attribute it to coincidence. Stay tuned. Things might get a little bumpy ;)

  14. It’s funny how these guys just don’t give up. You know we can always include new clauses in copyleft licenses prohibiting the distribution of copyleft material by any organization covered by the new broadcast laws. It’s going to hurt them more than it hurts us at this stage, since half their content is just stale regurgitation of stuff they found on the internet.

    But you have to wonder, with their profits drying up and their customer base evaporating, how much longer they’ll be able to buy access to politicians. This is a long game, and really all anti-copyright has to do to win it is to keep existing in spite of whatever regulations come around. As long as we’re creating and sharing, regardless of whether above-ground institutions like youtube facilitate it, profits will continue to dwindle and with them the ability to afford lobbyists. Not that anyone should rest on their laurels – just keep fighting the good fight. This started a long time ago (arguably over 30 years ago) and it’s got a ways to go yet, but we’re definitely winning. These ridiculous law proposals are looking less like ominous death knells for the movement and more like desperate death throes all the time.

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