A crucial meeting that will determine the future of the proposed WIPO Broadcasting Treaty has been underway this week at WIPO. WIPO' s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights was scheduled to meet from 18-21 June, and then hold a Preparatory Conference on June 22, to agree the rules for the Diplomatic Conference scheduled for November. But at 8:45 pm last night, the U.S. delegation took the floor and said that it did not support moving forward to a Diplomatic Conference this year, on the grounds that there was so little agreement on a proposed text and key elements of what a Broadcasting Treaty should contain. Many Member States agreed that there was no prospect of coming to a consensus by week-end, including Brazil, India and the Africa Group. That's clear from the number of alternative proposals put forward by Member States in the closed-room negotiations that have been taking place this week, which are recorded in two non-official "non-papers" that were circulated yesterday evening. After almost 10 years of negotiations, there is litlle agreement on fundamental elements of a treaty. However, despite that, several countries, including Japan and the European Community, support continuing work on the proposed treaty. IP-Watch has more detailed coverage of last night's breakdown of discussions here.
So what does all of this mean? It means that the intergovernmental Diplomatic Conference scheduled to take place in November 2007 won't be going ahead. But it's not at all clear that the proposed Treaty is off WIPO's Agenda.
There's intense lobbying taking place here in Geneva. We are reminded daily that negotiations have been underway on the proposed treaty for almost 10 years, and there is a clearly discernible institutional desire within WIPO to complete a treaty after such a large investment of time and effort. It is still possible that there will be a move to continue discussions and a renewed push for a Diplomatic Conference to finalize a treaty in 2008. We'll have a better idea about that later this morning, when the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights reconvenes in a "formal" session, to discuss the Committee's report to the General Assembly. We'll be back to report on the outcome of that meeting and what's next shortly.
EFF and a diverse group of public interest NGOs, libraries and major U.S. tech industry players oppose the current treaty draft because it would create a new layer of exclusive intellectual property rights for broadcasters and cablecasters that would harm access to knowledge and consumers' existing rights under national copyright law, endanger citizen broadcasting on the Interet, raise competition policy concerns and threatens to stifle technological innovation. (Here's EFF's briefing paper on the latest treaty draft - the Copyright Committee Chair's non-paper released on May 1, 2007.) We are here in Geneva this week to ensure that WIPO and the Member States take into consideration not just the protection of broadcasters? and cablecasters? investments, but also the detrimental impact that the proposed treaty would have on all of these groups. We'll be back with more information and the NGO coalition's notes of this week's discussions shortly.