Nettime — UN Broadcasting Treaty seen as severely limiting essential freedoms

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UN Broadcasting Treaty seen as severely limiting essential freedoms
5/3/2006 4:04:20 PM, by Anders Bylund
A remarkably unacceptable treaty proposal is currently being pushed through the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, seemingly concieved by the RIAA and MPAA and backed by traditional old-line media businesses. The Broadcasting Treaty, currently undergoing review at a UN convention in Geneva, Switzerland, contains passages that would severely restrict the concepts of fair use and freedom of speech—on a global level. IP Watch has an excellent overview of the issues:
The proposed broadcasting treaty would create entirely new global rights for broadcasting companies who have neither created nor own the programming. What’s even more alarming is the proposal from the United States that the treaty regulate the Internet transmission of audio and video entertainment.
It is dangerous and inappropriate for an unelected international treaty body to undertake the task of creating entirely new rights, which currently exist in no national law, such as webcasting rights and anti-circumvention laws related to broadcasting. A global treaty is not the place for experimentation with new rights, but rather for the harmonization of existing legal norms. WIPO treads on shaky ground by proposing to create new rights that no elected body in the world has yet agreed to.
Under the treaty, broadcasters such as cable companies, radio stations, and Webcasting operators would essentially take over the rights to control material broadcast over the Internet, to the point where the original content creator would have to “beg permission from broadcasting companies in order to make any use of their own performances.” If you don’t think you should care about a measure like this, consider the effects it could have on freedoms we take for granted today in the US:
For example, if US President Bush gave an interview to Fox News, Fox could prevent any subsequent use of that footage including fair use, commentary, or criticism of President Bush – at its sole discretion – under the new anti-circumvention rights created by this treaty. Much of the political humor available on Comedy Central’s “The Jon Stewart Show” could become illegal under this treaty.
In addition, countries signed to the agreement would have to enforce the implementation of DRM shackles akin to the proposed Broadcast Flag, harsh enough that even Intel objects. Because you can never protect your pilfered ownership rights too much, you know. Unsurprisingly, the EFF has voiced its opposition to the proposal:
As we’ve noted elsewhere, EFF believes that these new rights will stifle innovation, create a new layer of liability for Internet intermediaries, impair consumers’ existing rights, restrict the public’s access to knowledge and culture, and change the nature of the Internet as a communication medium. Many of these concerns could be addressed by limiting the scope of the treaty to its intended purpose—signal theft. Unfortunately the new draft doesn’t remove any of our concerns, but only deepens them.
It’s disturbing how often it happens that innocuous or even positive legal drafts get additional and often quite scary addendums tacked on along the way toward final approval. And opposing views seem to have a tendency to be overlooked, ignored, or pushed aside. In this case, a majority of the UN member states have already rejected the Webcasting inclusions, but that hasn’t stopped the current draft of the main document from retaining that language. Instead, many of the proposed changes that would lead to lesser broadcaster controls and better protection of basic freedoms have been thrown out or relegated to a separate document.
“Core” parts of the proposal form the Draft Basic Proposal, while “alternatives” make up the Draft Working Paper, where parties to the treaty are free to opt out of individual clauses. Several countries have complained about their voices not being heard in this process, and after this week’s discussions, the draft most likely goes on to receive the official stamp of approval. Is the whole world really that eager to protect the interests of big, established media to the detriment of independent expression?