November 17, 2004 | By Donna Wentworth

EFF Fights for a Better WIPO

For years, progressive groups like the Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech) have struggled to convince the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to rethink its "IP Uber Alles" philosophy -- that is, the pursuit of maximal intellectual property protection for its own sake, regardless of the human, cultural, or economic impact. The stakes are high. As James Boyle points out in his Manifesto on WIPO and the Future of Intellectual Property, WIPO decisions affect everything from the availability and price of AIDS drugs, to the patterns of international development, to the communications architecture of the Internet.

The major breakthrough came just two months ago, when WIPO decided to adopt the Development Agenda proposed by a number of developing countries and non-government organizations (NGOs). This agenda makes explicit WIPO's responsibility for weighing the impact of its decisions and urges the organization to unlock its considerable potential to help humanity.

While this was an incredibly important, historic first step toward realigning WIPO's mission with the global public interest, the proof is in the pudding. This Wednesday- Friday (Nov. 17-19), EFF will attend the Twelfth Session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights to urge WIPO to stick to its guns with regard to the principles outlined in the Development Agenda.

Specifically, we will:

  • ask WIPO to apply public-interest considerations in revising the highly controversial Broadcasting Treaty [PDF], which proposes the creation of a new and unnecessary layer of pseudo-copyright protection for broadcasters (see our statement [PDF] for details);
  • join other NGOs to propose an alternative draft of the treaty -- one that targets the problem (signal theft) rather than adds new rights; and
  • potentially give a speech to advocate filling in the "negative space" at WIPO -- that is, using the organization to establish a miniumum global set of rights for the public as well as for copyright holders.

In addition to the above, a group of 20 technology companies will send a letter speaking out against the inclusion of "webcasters" in the Broadcasting Treaty, arguing among other things that a new pseudo-copyright will only slow down adoption and innovation in Internet markets by requiring all content-related businesses to negotiate yet another layer of license agreements before they can offer new products or services to the public.

Finally, EFF's own Cory Doctorow will again live-blog the meeting here at Deep Links, bringing what was once "insider-only" information before the public eye.

For background information on the current negotiations at WIPO, check out:

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