Broadcasting Treaty

The World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) "Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations" is protection all right—a protection racket for middlemen in the TV and Internet worlds.

If adopted, the WIPO treaty will give broadcasters 50 years of copyright-like control over the content of their broadcasts even when they have no copyright in what they show. A TV channel broadcasting your Creative Commons-licensed movie could legally demand that no one record or redistribute it—and sue anyone who does. And TV companies could use their new rights to go after TiVo or MythTV for daring to let you skip advertisements or record programs in DRM-free formats.

If that wasn't bad enough, some countries at WIPO have supported expanding the treaty to cover the Internet. That means that anyone who feeds any combination of "sound and images" through a web server would have a right to meddle with what you do with the webcast simply because they serve as the middleman between you and the creator. If the material is already under copyright you would be forced to clear rights with multiple sets of rightsholders. Not only would this hurt innovation and threaten citizens' access to information, it would change the nature of the Internet as a communication medium.

Proponents say they need this treaty to prevent "signal piracy." But the treaty goes well beyond that by creating rights to control "fixations" of broadcasts that only apply after you've received and recorded a signal. EFF and an international coalition of NGOs support a real treaty against signal piracy. We've drafted a treaty that does just that, but WIPO's treaty proponents have refused to adopt it.

Before creating a brand new set of exclusive rights for broadcasters cablecasters and webcasters, there should be a demonstrated need for such rights and a clear understanding of how they will impact the public, educators, existing copyright holders, online communications, and new Internet technologies. If you agree tell your representative to scrutinize the treaty before it's too late.

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