Friday, May 11, 2007

Killing the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty...

The final draft text of the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty is expected to be hashed out this summer. The international treaty seeks to allow broadcasters to copy-protect the content of their transmissions, irrespective of the wishes of the actual copyright owners. It's fascinating who has come out united in opposition to this treaty.

Under the treaty, broadcasters would have the right to protect their broadcasts from "reproduction, retransmission, and even from public communication". An example of what this would mean: if NBC broadcast an episode of "Heroes", they would be free to place whatever copy-protection they wished over the episode, regardless of what the show's producers (and copyright holders) actually desired. NBC would then control that right for the next 50 years. Apply the same analogy to all television, radio, and even internet broadcasts, and suddenly you've thrown the entire idea that copyright exists to protect and provide incentive for content creators into chaos.

As this Boing Boing article notes, however, the opposition to the WIPO Broadcast Treaty is not only strong, but also consists of a diversity of organizations who almost never agree on anything. Even sworn enemies such as AT&T and the EFF - who happen to be suing each other - have still somehow managed to unite in opposition to this treaty. Virtually nobody except the big broadcasting firms think it's even remotely a good idea.

Certainly, the politics of the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty will test the power of the broadcasting industry's lobby, both here in America as well as abroad. But what may be of even more interest to the study of future internet policymaking is testing the effectiveness and durability of such an unprecedented type of advocacy coalition.


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