New 'Broadcaster' Rights Threaten Podcasting And Other Web Marketing
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an international organization focused on policy and IP rights, has been working on a draft resolution for a few years now aimed at reducing "signal piracy" or theft of broadcast works -- most commonly in the areas of Pay-Per-View and Satellite Television but now moving to other digital media such as music, movies, etc.
Piracy has been a problem for many years as a simple search for "DirecTV Piracy" or "Napster Piracy" will show. These challenges have certainly been part of computing, especially with the advent of the Internet. With TiVo, DVRs, MP3s, and peer-to-peer technology that transforms simple hard drives and file transfers into a global distribution network. So, in short, these problems are a challenge and current copyright law has been used quite extensively to curtail these infringing uses.
So what does this have to do with publishing information on the Internet of the sort a business or organization that is not a member of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)?
The Internet has enabled many to become producers and creators. Bloggers, Podcasters, and now Vodcasters have taken advantage of the simple technology that makes it easy to communicate to millions of users over the Internet. The organization mentioned earlier, WIPO, is looking to go far beyond simply adding any necessary additions to copyright law to enable enforcement against signal piracy by adding an entirely new set of "Broadcaster" rights that further complicates the issue and compromises the rights of creators. For some reason, the US Copyright Office and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is on board with this which simply means they have not heard much public comment on the issue.
A group of US industry organizations including Intel, Verizon, Dell and TiVo composed a letter to WIPO back in July and stated:
The undersigned companies and trade associations are gravely troubled by the World Intellectual Property Organization's proposed "Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations. (WIPO Broadcast Treaty)." This little known proposed treaty is being advocated by the Library of Congress Copyright Office and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office without adequate public vetting or support. As discussed below, the treaty as written creates new liability risks for telecommunications intermediaries as well as software developers and device manufacturers. The rights granted under the treaty would allow incumbent broadcasters and cablecasters to withhold access to valuable programming and inhibit the legitimate enjoyment of content by consumers in their homes and through digital consumer devices. We understand public interest organizations have communicated to you their concerns about this proposed treaty. We agree with many of those concerns and advise you that, as industry, we too object to this proposed treaty.
These are just a few of the difficulties that could result from implementation of this draft treaty. There are others, affecting public domain material, orphan works, and compilations – none of which are subject to current copyright restraints under U.S. law.
For these reasons, the undersigned oppose the treaty as currently drafted. We urge Congress to hold hearings on this issue as soon as possible. The Copyright Office and USPTO should be asked to explain the need for this treaty and these unprecedented new intellectual property rights, and any proponents should explain why existing treaties and laws are inadequate to prevent the rebroadcast of their signals. Such a hearing would also provide the broad cross sector of business and the public interest groups the opportunity to further explain the harms that could result from the draft treaty.
What this means to us at Enthusiast is that we as "software developers" and our clients as creators could be affected adversely and possibly even punitively if we inadvertently infringe on the rights of a "broadcaster" as defined in the treaty.
We agree with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that congress should hold public debate on this issue and call The Copyright Office and the USPTO to justify their support of this treaty in its current form. Even a strong advocate of this treaty, the Digital Media Association (DiMA), admits that the Internet is altogether different than the broadcast medium of traditional radio and television:
Since its creation the Internet has been user-driven, in contrast to traditional television and radio technologies. So, for example, with radio or television consumer choice is limited to programming presented by stations the consumer can access, but on the Internet consumers are able to select the information or content they choose to access, virtually without limits.
We have seen the power that the RIAA and MPAA can wield as a lobbying organization with the passage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and we believe that creators such as our clients should have the last word when it comes to how their works can and cannot be used.
The EFF has a simple form you can fill out that will be automatically sent to your representative in Congress encouraging them to seek public debate and further clarity on this issue. If passed, this could dramatically impact all of our access to information that we have come to enjoy freely. I have sent a letter and included it below.
To: US Congress Representatives and Senators