June 13, 2006 | By Gwen Hinze

Beware of the Leopard: WIPO pushes Broadcasting Treaty at covert meeting

What does WIPO do when it's trying to secure agreement on an important treaty, but is facing fierce resistance? It organizes a meeting outside of home base in Geneva, with "experts" and businessmen to "educate" select countries on the need for the new treaty and try to shore up support. WIPO's latest meeting on the draft Broadcasting and Webcasting Treaty, announced just this morning, will take place on June 21 in Barcelona, Spain. It features a number of the experts who have spoken at previous WIPO events, including last year's controversial non-public regional consultation meetings organized in place of the regular copyright committee meeting that is open to all accredited organizations.

Like the September 2005 regional consultation in Brussels, most of the program is devoted to presentations from broadcasters. There are no presentations from the non-governmental organizations that have voiced public interest concerns about the treaty. This time the broadcasters are from Latin American countries, a move presumably intended to pressure that region's representatives who are asking the hardest questions about the proposed treaty.

Webcasting will clearly be part of next week's discussions. That much is clear from the title of next week's event: "From the Rome Convention to Podcasting". One of the invited speakers is from Yahoo! Europe, one of the proponents of new rights for webcasters. This, despite the fact that webcasting and simulcasting were taken out of the "traditional" Broadcasting Treaty and put on the slow track last month in response to concerns expressed by the majority of WIPO member states.

The good news: unlike earlier meetings, this one is open to the public, with prior registration requested. So if you care about the proposed treaties and can get to the Barcelona meeting, this is your opportunity to stand up and be counted for the public interest.

If you're in the U.S., please tell your Congressional representatives to hold hearings on the proposed treaties before it's too late. And if you need a reminder about the harm that these treaties could wreak on access to knowledge and technological innovation, read Jamie Boyle's piece in today's Financial Times.

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