[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

WIPO Conference - Press Briefing (fwd)

  Info-Policy-Notes - A newsletter available from listproc@tap.org
  December 5, 1996
  The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is meeting from
  December 2 to 20 on three treaties that would greatly restrict the public's
  rights to use information.  The following is the annoucement for a press
  briefing I gave on the treaties at the United Nations, in Geneva,
  thrusday, December 5, 1996.  IMHO, the briefing went well.  jamie
  James Love, Director, Consumer Project on Technology
  Center for Study of Responsive Law, Washington, DC
  In Geneva, until Sunday, at 734-9813; thereafter 01.202.387.8030
       Intellectual Property is the "capital stock" of the next century, and
  the rules are important -- too important to decide in a hastily convened
  conference such as this WIPO meeting.  The WIPO delegates are being asked
  to ratify proposals for every country, which have never been tried in any
       The U.S. Government, a major force pushing for the treaties, hasn't
  moved the Internet copyright legislation out of a single Congressional
  Committee yet, due to strong domestic opposition from a wide coalition of
  data users and computer companies.  The U.S. Congress has never held a
  public hearing on the database proposal, and almost no one in the U.S.
  government has a clue what it actually does.  In Europe, no country has
  yet found a way to implement the EU database directive, without causing a
  meltdown in their domestic information industry.
       The three proposals being considered at the WIPO meetings would
  severely restrict the public's traditional rights to use information.  In
  countless areas of controversy, they resolve thorny questions about user
  rights against the users, and in favor of the new supercharged
       The treaties are so poorly conceived as to raise questions about the
  competence of the drafters.  People are alarmed that the drafters do not
  understand computers or the Internet.  No one who used and understood the
  Internet would propose strict rules making RAM and temporary cache copies
  of documents a presumed infringement of copyright.  No one who understands
  the information industry would propose the sweeping new property rights on
  facts and other public domain information (So broad that daily newspapers
  would have to obtain a license to report the box scores from sporting
  events).  No one who considers privacy important would have proposed
  strict liability for Internet Service Providers (which would predictably
  lead to very intrusive surveillance of Internet transmissions).  The early
  "anti-circumvention" provisions of the treaty were so extreme that they
  would have made general purpose personal computers illegal.  Errors of
  these magnitude reflect a lack of understanding about the very technology
  the WIPO delegates are being asked to regulate.
       The Conference organizers are deliberately misleading the public
  about the status of copyright law on the Internet.  Some press briefings
  imply that without the treaties, rampant infringements of copyrighted
  works would be legal.  This is patently false.  Courts routinely hear
  cases about the application of current copyright laws on the Internet.
  New issues are raised, and these issues are resolved through normal court
  processes.  These treaties are not designed to bring copyright to the
  Internet.  They are designed to change copyright law, and to create very
  restrictive rules for the use of information.
       Reports on the Internet about the WIPO proceeding illustrate the
  hypocrisy of the meeting.  Faxed copies of news stories about the
  conference from the New York Times, the Los Angles Times, the Financial
  Times and other newspapers are widely distributed at the same WIPO meeting
  where delegates seek to make similar "fair use" transmissions on the
  Internet illegal.  Last month I asked a U.S. State Department official,
  who was standing at a xerox machine, making a copy of an article on the
  Treaty, how long the State Department could function if it didn't
  routinely engage in endless coping and faxing of copyrighted materials
  from U.S. and foreign sources.
       News reporters are typically surrounded by stacks of faxes and xerox
  copies of copyrighted materials, which are circulated without permissions
  from copyright owners.  These are mostly considered "fair uses" of
  copyrighted materials, and not infringements.  A zero tolerance for
  unauthorized use of copyrighted materials would be a disaster for news
  reporting, and for most research and management activities.
       Do we really want to live in a world where governments from the U.S.
  to Burma insist on precise paper trails of who receives, forwards and
  shares information with whom?
       The existing frameworks for copyright law in most countries is
  surprisingly robust to changes in technologies, and provides a much better
  framework than the untested and unbalanced treaties considered at this
  diplomatic conference.
       These and other issues will are being discussed.
                               APPENDIX A
        Examples of  groups opposing one or more of the WIPO Treaties
  Sun Computers
  STATS, Inc. (Sports Statistics)
  The American Committee for Interoperable Systems (ACIS)
  Home Recording Rights Coalition (Consumer Electronics)
  Ad Hoc Copyright Coalition (Telecom and Computer)
  The U.S. National Academy of Sciences
  The U.S. National Academy of Engineering
  The U.S. Institute of Medicine
  American Association for the Advance of Science (AAAS
  American Library Association
  Digital Futures Coalition
  National Writers Union (U.S.A.)
  Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
  Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
  Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
  Union for the Public Domain (UDC)
  Consumer Project on Technology
  Genealogists Against the WIPO Treaties (GAWT)
            Appendix B - Unauthorized Copying
       It isn't that the Internet has led to large scale unauthorized
  reproductions of copyrighted materials -- that happens every day off the
  Internet.  It is simply that the Internet makes it extremely easy to
  detect unauthorized reproduction of works.  For examples, thousands of
  persons make unauthorized copies of cartoons with xerox machines or for
  overhead slides, to decorate offices or assist in presentations.  But when
  a few individuals post unauthorized copies of Far Side Cartoons on their
  personal Web pages, the New York Times reports this in a page one story as
  evidence that the Internet needs to be regulated.  It is only that the
  Internet makes such unauthorized uses very transparent - and hence, easy
  to police.  The daily examples of unauthorized reproductions of
  copyrighted works (much of this appropriate and legal under current fair
  use doctrine) OFF the Internet exceed that occurring ON the Internet by
  staggering margins.  What is important to police are inappropriate uses of
  copyrighted materials, and the current copyright law provides ample tools
  to accomplish this task.
  INFORMATION POLICY NOTES is a free Internet newsletter sponsored
  by the Taxpayer Assets Project (TAP) and the Consumer Project on
  Technology (CPT).  Both groups are projects of the Center for
  Study of Responsive Law, which is run by Ralph Nader.  The
  LISTPROC services are provide by Essential Information.  Archives
  of Info-Policy-Notes are available from
  TAP and CPT both have Internet Web pages.
  Subscription requests to info-policy-notes to listproc@tap.org with
  the message:  subscribe info-policy-notes Jane Doe
  TAP and CPT can both be reached off the net at P.O. Box 19367,
  Washington, DC  20036, Voice:  202/387-8030; Fax: 202/234-5176