The meeting of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights on the new Broadcasting/ Webcasting Treaty has just concluded and there's some welcome news for those of us in the Internet Community.
Webcasting - which was in the current draft of the treaty as an opt-in Annex - is now going to be removed from the main treaty draft, and put into a new proposal of its own, which will be discussed at a separate meeting, and proceed on a parallel slower track.
Efforts to finalize a treaty focusing on broadcasting and cablecasting in the "traditional" sense will continue on a faster track. The Chair will create a new treaty draft by August 1, which will be finalized at one further meeting of the Standing Committee. Then a recommendation will be put to the WIPO General Assembly in September to convene an early 2007 Diplomatic Conference on the "traditional" Broadcasting Treaty. (See below for the Chair's summary of the new two-track process).
Extending the draft treaty's 50 year intellectual property-based rights to webcasters has been controversial to say the least. It was expressly opposed by the clear majority of countries this week, and has consistently been rejected by WIPO member states in the last two meetings of the Committee in 2004 and 2005.
So webcasting is out, but the question is for how long? The U.S., which proposed its inclusion, was not happy about the outcome. It said it was concerned with the "missed opportunity" to provide protection for new entities, but said that it would reluctantly be prepared to accept the two-track approach -- on the condition that if the WIPO General Assembly did not convene a Diplomatic Conference dealing with "traditional broadcasting" when it meets in September, any future discussions on a Broadcasting Treaty would include protection for new Internet entities.
But what's clear for webcasting, is not so clear for simulcasting. The Chair's proposal for breaking the webcasting deadlock would have put simulcasting in the "new media" slow-track package. A comment from the European Community at the end of the session has thrown that into doubt.
The EC has consistently supported extending protection to broadcasters' and cablecasters' simultaneous transmissions over the Internet. This is currently provided for in the right of retransmission in Article 6 of the draft treaty, and possibly also in Article 9's right of transmission of fixed casts.
The European Community said that it would be prepared to go forward with the two-track approach, but implied that it considered simulcasting was part of the "traditional" broadcasts, not the "new media" package under which webcasting would be discussed.
This would, of course, split off negotiations about webcasting from the simulcasting talks and change the dynamics of the in-WIPO debate. Unlike webcasting, which is almost universally opposed, there's both considerable opposition and measured support for simulcasting. But for the Internet community and particularly for Internet intermediaries, simulcasting raises many concerns, including potential liability issues.
What next? We wait to see the new draft proposal in August.
We'll be blogging our take of what this all means, and the NGO coalition's notes of the last few days' proceedings here shortly.
In the meantime, here's the Chair's summary of the new two-track process:
A. On protection of traditional broadcasting organizations:
1. One more meeting of the SCCR before the General Assembly.
2. The agenda of that meeting will be confined to protection of broadcasting in traditional sense (broadcast and cable)
3. A revised basic draft basic proposal will be prepared for the meeting and all efforts will be made to make it available to the Member States by August 1 2006. It will be made on the basis of SCCR/14/2 and SCCR/14/3 and now-existing proposals and taking account the discussions of this committee.
4. There will be a recommendation to the General Assembly to convene a Diplomatic Conference at a suitable time in 2007.
B. A proposal on protection of webcasting and simulcasting.
1. The deadline for the proposals foreseen at 14th session of SCCR concerning these webcasting and simulcasting, will be August. 1 2006.
2. Revised document on protection of web and simulcasting will be prepared on basis of SCCR/14/2, and the proposals, and taking into account discussions of the committee.
3. Consultation will be taken on the matter of an agenda for ameeting of an SCCR to be convened after the General Assembly.
(As transcribed by our NGO note-taking coalition (EFF, Jason Pielemeier of the Yale Information Society Project, Thiru Balasubramaniam of Consumer Project on Technology and Rufus Pollack of the Open Knowledge Foundation).