March 6, 2007 | By Danny O'Brien

Senate Committee: Broadcasting Treaty Must Be Limited

Eighteen months ago, we heard that the controversial proposed WIPO
Broadcasting Treaty was not on the radar of U.S. congressional
representatives. That has changed, thanks to href="http://action.eff.org/site/Advocacy?id=227">your
letters, and much hard work by href="http://www.eff.org/IP/WIPO/broadcasting_treaty/NGO_joint_statement_SCCR_S1.pdf">
a broad coalition of public interest NGOs, libraries, ICT industry
groups and CE corporations . Late last week, the Chairman and the
Ranking Republican Member of the key Senate
Judiciary Committee weighed in. They href="http://eff.org/IP/WIPO/broadcasting_treaty/letter_leahy_specter_pto.pdf">sent a letter to the Register of
Copyrights and Director
of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which make up the U.S.'s
delegation to WIPO, expressing their concern with how the current
rights-based treaty draft will impact U.S. law and stakeholders, and
urged the U.S. delegation to advocate at the next WIPO meeting in
June for a revised treaty with a "significantly narrower scope".

The letter goes further, and expressly encourages the U.S. delegation to
oppose any effort to move to an intergovernmental Diplomatic Conference
(currently scheduled for November) if the proposed treaty is not rewritten to
be limited to "true signal theft". Welcome words indeed.

href="http://eff.org/IP/WIPO/broadcasting_treaty/letter_leahy_specter_pto.pdf">The
letter clearly indicates that the Senate Judiciary Committee
understands the significant policy issues raised by the proposed treaty and
the changes it would require to U.S. law. It states:

The Revised Draft Broadcasting Treaty appears to grant
broadcasters extensive new, exclusive rights in their transmissions for
a term of at least 20 years, regardless of whether they have a right in
the content they are transmitting. While we support the need to protect
against signal theft of broadcast transmissions, the treaty appears to
go beyond this purpose and grant broadcasters a right in their
transmissions similar to a content holder's copyright. As a result, the
rights that would be granted to broadcasters by the Revised Draft
Broadcasting Treaty could limit legitimate, fair use of the content and
would add an unnecessary layer of uncertainty in consumer use.

We couldn't have put it better ourselves.

In recent months, the U.S. delegation to WIPO has signalled
support for exploring an alternative signal-protection based treaty
approach. The problem is the current treaty draft is plainly not
limited to signal theft. In href="http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/005100.php">January,
WIPO Member States met for three intense days to try to come up with
an alternative signal-based treaty text with no success. The WIPO
Copyright Committee Chair is currently producing a new "non-paper",
due to be released on May 1, which will set the framework for
discussions at the next crucial Special Session of the WIPO Standing
Committee on Copyright and Related Rights on 18-22 June, 2007. EFF
will be at that meeting, and we look forward to reporting how the
U.S. delegation responds to the Senate Judiciary Committee's requests.


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