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November 17, 2005: Open Letter to WIPO from 20 Webcasters, presented to 12th session of the SCCR


November 17, 2005: Open Letter to WIPO from 20 Webcasters, presented to 12th session of the SCCR

The World Intellectual Property Organization's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights is undertaking a Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations. This treaty will confer upon the transmitters of information a host of "related" or "pseudo" copyrights that have the potential to trump true copyright and restrict the flow of information on the Internet.

One proposal within the Treaty would extend these pseudo-copyrights to the Internet, by means of a controversial "Webcasting Provision." While there has been very little support from the national delegations for this proposal, the insistent voice of self-styled representatives of the technology industry has been loud enough to see to it that this proposal has persisted through draft after draft of the Treaty.

We, the undersigned representatives of technology businesses large and small, reject the idea that the Internet needs or will benefit from the extension of these pseudo-copyrights to so-called "Webcasters."

Briefly, we reject the Webcasting Provision for the following reasons:

  1. The Internet depends on permission-free access. This is reflected in the exemptions in many countries' copyright laws for online and internet service providers. When authors or rights-holders' permission has been required for fixation, copying, retransmission or decoding in other situations, the negotiation of licenses from creators and copyright rights-holders have provided ample protection for all parties. Adding a new layer of intermediaries, over and above copyright holders, for the re-use of information on the Internet benefits no one -- save those intermediaries. If an Internet company has the rights to a work, or need not secure the rights to a work due to a limitation in copyright, or because the work is in the public domain, there is no rational reason to require that the company also seek the permission of a further intermediary whose sole creative contribution to the work is in making it available.
  2. There is no demonstrable problem. Internet businesses are famously, legendarily well-capitalized from angels, venture capitalists, public markets, private investors, governments and every other source of capital imaginable. Proponents of webcasting rights have offered no credible evidence that the lack of legal protection for webcasting rights has precluded the establishment of any new Internet businesses. Indeed, the businesses most volubly calling for Webcasting protection are among the best-capitalized in the history of the world. There is no certainty of benefit here, but it *is* certain that the creation of a new psuedo-copyright will 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. The most likely result of introducing these new rights will be to skew the market; in practice it will provide financial assistance to incumbents who will be able to assure investors of their right to exclude their competitors and new entrants from the market. At the same time, it is likely to constrain, not increase, the creation of more information products for the public.

We do not desire the "protection" you offer us, nor do we believe it will benefit us.

Thank you,

Mark Cuban, HDNet, Dallas Mavericks NBA Team Owner

(Mr Cuban is also the owner of over US$500,000,000 in copyrighted video works)

Elliot Noss, TuCows, Inc.

Tim O'Reilly: O'Reilly and Associates

Scott Rosenberg, Salon Media Group/

Jeremy Hogan, Lulu, Inc

Austin Wallender, pictothink

Jonathan M. Hollin, Digital-World, Ltd (UK)

Adam Rifkin, KnowNow, Inc.

Rohit Khare, CommerceNet Coalition

Michael J. Masin, M2 Group Corp.

David Daniels, Starfish Internet Services

John Burden, FuturesGuide, Inc

Leisa Fearing, Elf Systems Corporation

Arthur van Dorp, Siteware Systems GmbH Switzerland

Matt Rudderham, DynamicHosting.Biz

Robert L Mathews, Tiger Technologies LLC

Anil Gupte, ke.e.n., Inc.

Kai Schaetzl, Conactive GmbH & Co KG

Marc Gadsdon, In-Tuition Networks Ltd

Joyce Thomas, Bizgrok, Inc.

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