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WIPO Considers Changes to Broadcasting Copyrights
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Posted On July 15, 2014
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From June 30 to July 4, the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) met in order to discuss its Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations, which could be enforced by 2015. The agenda and working documents for this 28th session of the SCCR can be found on WIPO’s website.  

Delegates disagreed about the scope and object of the treaty and its emphasis on protections for broadcasters, as well as its considerations for libraries and archives (with scant mention of museums and other cultural institutions) and educational and research institutions for people with disabilities (beyond visual impairment). During the session, developing nations reaffirmed the importance of limitations and exceptions to copyright, while developed countries indicated that the current international copyright system was adequate to deal with technologies such as ebooks.

With the failure to come to an agreement during the SCCR’s 27th session (April 28–May 2, 2014) in mind, the U.S. indicated that the best way for the committee to find consensus would be “to focus on a narrow treaty based on the core needs of broadcasters for protection from signal piracy.” The European Union (EU) statement noted that its member countries should seek a balanced approach, which respects “the rights of right holders in works and other protected subject matter carried by broadcast signals” while protecting broadcasting organizations. Representatives of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) found the EU delegates wanting in terms of support for the library community. The Asia Pacific Group’s statement emphasized the need for “a comprehensive and inclusive framework on exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives, educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities.”

Broadcasters’ Copyrights

For years, WIPO recognized that its 1961 Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations needed updating to “protect broadcasters against signal piracy, particularly related to the unauthorized commercial retransmission of signals captured over-the-air or intercepted from satellite transmissions” beyond its 1996 internet treaties on copyright and sound recordings. In 2007, WIPO’s General Assembly agreed that the organization should focus on a “signal-based approach”; in 2011, the SCCR began working on a draft treaty that would deal with outstanding issues, including what should be protected (and how).

The draft under consideration this year would grant additional rights to broadcasters, extending their exclusive rebroadcasting rights from 20 to 50 years and to new technologies (i.e., the internet). (While some countries have domestic legislation that protects broadcasters, foreign piracy remains a concern that needs international agreement.) A timeline for the Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations is available on the Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) website; the American Library Association (ALA) website summarizes the potential impact of the proposed treaty on U.S. libraries.

An attempt to come to an agreement earlier this year yielded little—SCCR chair Martin Moscoso summarized his conclusions about the 27th session—but this time the delegates worked in informal sessions with regional coordinators and “experts” available to clarify technical issues. Moscoso deftly dealt with additional challenges, while WIPO’s director general Francis Gurry pointed out that “the current FIFA World Cup was a ‘perfect’ example of the economic and social importance of broadcasting. … The challenge … is to develop a shared understanding among member states on how best to address the needs and issues faced by broadcasting organisations in the digital age.”

Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries and Archives

Discussions during the first 3 days of the session dealt with broadcasters; during the final 2 days, delegates discussed exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives. It turns out that words matter—delegates sought alternatives for referring to “treaty” or “model law” when it came to libraries and archives.

The plan presented by the U.S. delegation indicated an understanding that the document would deal with principles, allowing each country to develop its own legislation that would cover the treaty’s exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives: “We continue to believe that the best way forward is to focus on general principles and objectives, and find concepts on which all Member States can agree. … Once we have developed a level of agreement on principles and objectives, the U.S. would propose further work on developing and updating national laws to implement them.” The U.S. views the role of libraries and archives as a public service, noting that many nations already have copyright exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives that take into consideration their country’s social, economic, and cultural realities. However, as the representative for IFLA pointed out, there is still a need for an instrument that creates harmonization around the world to allow for the flow of information across borders.


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Barbie E. Keiser is an information resources management consultant located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.

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