IPA Blog

WIPO Diary (SCCR 34) Day 4 - Copyright: if it ain't broke, don't fix it

Today the SCCR talks ticked onwards to the ‘and persons of other disabilities’ part of the agenda item ‘limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities’ (referring to non-visual impairments).

Professor Blake Reid, of the University of Colorado, an IP and disability law maven, presented the skeleton of a new scoping study that will map the potential needs of people with ‘other disabilities’ and to determine the extent to which copyright law is affecting them.

The lunchtime lobbying event was staged by a group of organizations, including the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (the PIJIP, which made an appearance in yesterday’s post) whose stated common goal is ‘fixing copyright for modern education’.

Among the speakers was Delia Browne, ‘education lead’ for Creative Commons Australia and Director of Australia’s National Copyright Unit (Schools and TAFEs). One of her roles is to consult on copyright law reviews in Australia, which means she’s never idle.

Delia began by noting that Australia is often held up as a benchmark in providing educational access, due to a system of statutory licensing which has been around since the 1980s and a whole series of exceptions.

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WIPO Diary (SCCR 34) Day 3 - IPA takes centre stage

WIPO Diary (SCCR 34) Day 3 - IPA takes centre stage

Committee Chair Daren Tang brought to bear his endearing blend of levitas and gravitas this morning as he started the day’s negotiations on ‘limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives’. As he did so, Tang reminded the delegates of the burden of responsibility they bear, something that’s becoming his signature patter.

He said their decisions ‘can make a positive impact on the lives of the millions of citizens out there who are in different countries struggling with different issues’, and that copyright ‘impacts the lives of every person’.

‘I hope that we will be able to move towards something that is constructive, something that is useful not just from the government perspective, but from the human perspective ... the connection of what we do here with the lives of those people will become a lot more apparent than it is now, will become a lot more positive than it is right now, and I believe that's the spirit in which we should work,’ he said.

The inference – intended or otherwise – is that the SCCR has a duty to put the greater good before self-interest and other less noble considerations.

Despite this, most of the delegates then stated again that an international instrument is the wrong approach, while pockets of the Global South want it. By the same token, content owners don’t see the point, while librarians and archivists vehemently do. It’s hard to see a way through this impasse, and indeed the Chair’s greatest task now will be to map such a route.

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WIPO Diary Day 2 (SCCR 34) - 'Informals' in the chamber of secrets

Today’s talks unfolded almost entirely behind closed doors during so-called ‘informals’, a setting usually employed to unblock a particularly tough impasse, when consensus on the floor of the plenary has proved impossible.

The informals, which take place in a separate chamber on the WIPO campus, are strictly for country delegations only. NGOs are not invited, but we can follow the audio feed from the plenary chamber provided we don’t report publicly what is said.

This approach enables the delegates to be freer and franker when wrangling over semantic minutiae that, ultimately, will form the substance of the text.

It was late afternoon before the committee returned to the plenary chamber to report on their talks. Chairman Daren Tang immediately poured cold water on the idea that a diplomatic conference on the broadcasting treaty was around the corner (see previous blog post). However, he did suggest the 'chair's text' be upgraded to a 'committee text'. This is a baby step closer to collective acceptance of the working document under discussion, which until now had only reflected the previous chair's personal attempt to provide a fair text.

Other than that, I have nothing much to write about what happened today ... so let’s look at tomorrow, when the IPA, with FEP and Bertlesmann, will stage a side-event with a difference.

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WIPO Diary (SCCR 34) Day 1 - Musical chairs, and all that jazz.

WIPO Diary (SCCR 34) Day 1 - Musical chairs, and all that jazz.

SCCR 34 opened this rainy Geneva morning, if not with a bang, at least with the hope that proceedings could ‘swing’ under the leadership of the committee’s upbeat new chairman, onetime jazzman, Daren Tang.

After WIPO Director General Francis Gurry passed him the gavel, Tang, who is CEO of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, promised to do his best to yield results – particularly on the stickier agenda items.

Chief among these is the ‘protection of broadcasting organizations’, which has basically ping-ponged back and forth across the floor for 20 years, despite WIPO’s best efforts to drag it forwards.

Acknowledging the friction, Tang said: “The work has been challenging. Some of the items on the agenda as you know have been around for a long time and I will not deny that they challenge the spirit of openness, transparency and fairness. We hope we’ll be able to give this meeting and all the different agenda items in it the best possible airing, the best possible push.”

Tang also hoped that his perspectives and experience, coming from Singapore – “a bridge between East and West, North and South, developed and developing” – would help things along.

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WIPO Diary (SCCR 33) Day 5 - Moving on

WIPO Diary (SCCR 33) Day 5 - Moving on

And so ends another SCCR marathon: hundreds of delegates locked in some 40 hours of discussion over five days; only God knows how many mini-sandwiches, cups of undrinkable coffee and MBs of data have been consumed.

The IPA put in a strong showing this time. For the first time ever the IPA delegation included its President (elect) and the Chair of the copyright committee. Add to that the Secretary General, our razor-sharp legal counsel and, well, me, and we were a distinctly visible presence in the crowd.

Having been wrapped in the copyright bubble since Monday and talked of little else between the hours of 9am and 7pm, I get a sense that there has been a definite shift in humour.

Frustration and possibly a vague embarrassment over the impasse has peaked and is spurring the chamber to action on the broadcasters treaty; the inside track is that a diplomatic conference may be announced as early as SCCR 34, from 1-5 May 2017.

Here's Carlo Scollo Lavizzari to tell you how he thinks it went:

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WIPO Diary (SCCR 33) Day 4 - A way with words

WIPO Diary (SCCR 33) Day 4 - A way with words

Professor Daniel Seng returned to the chamber briefly this morning to field more questions and comments about his mega-study. A night’s sleep had clearly worked wonders on everyone, and the questions came thick and fast from all corners of the room.

Some delegates wanted clarifications; others suggested ways to improve the report. And it seemed that my prayers in Wednesday’s post had been answered when the Brazilian delegate spoke. In previous SCCRs Brazil has made a series of utterances indicating a distinctly ‘copyleft’ bent. But perhaps the wind of change blowing through Brazilian politics has arrived on this side of the Atlantic, as the delegate said: ‘In Brazil, this report will provide us with much food for thought in our ongoing internal debates about copyright law reform.’

Once Prof. Seng had departed (probably for a well-earned rest), the discussion moved onto exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives. One of the first interventions of the session was by the Nigerian spokeswoman on behalf of the African Group.

She said: ‘We believe it is simply time to determine a functional path forward, for the committee's work in this area. We strongly believe that the absence of a clear result-oriented timeframe for the committee — for the committee's discussion of the limitations and exceptions agenda — is more harmful than helpful to the work programme of the SCCR and the overall objective of the exercise.’

IPA’s legal counsel Carlo Scollo Lavizzari, a Swiss polyglot who’s well versed in diplo-speak, suggested that this statement could be read in two ways. Either the African Group wants to strike exceptions and limitations from the agenda altogether, since it is acting as a brake, or, more likely, they want to impose a strict timeframe in order to force a more urgent resolution.

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WIPO Diary (SCCR 33) Day 3 - A world of exceptions and limitations

The IPA team joined a US delegation breakfast briefing this morning, high up on the 13th floor. A superstitious person may have hesitated to attend, but this was a golden chance of valuable face time with some key SCCR influencers. At the table were stakeholders from all sides of the copyright debate: policy makers, consumer groups, librarians, lawyers and NGOs.

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WIPO Diary (SCCR 33) Day 2 - The greater good

The morning began with a strategy huddle among the IPA-coordinated Creative Sector Organizations (CSO) group − a coalition of audio-visual, music and publishing industry representatives with a common goal: to protect creators, creations and creativity from attempts to weaken copyright.

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WIPO Diary (SCCR 33) Day 1 - Treaties, Transitions and Trumpism

As the world of international diplomacy hastily manoeuvres ahead of the looming Trump Era, delegates congregated at the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva this morning for the 33rd meeting of its Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR 33).

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WIPO Diary, Day 1: DG ticks off SCCR 32 over 20-year broadcasting text deadlock

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry fired the starting gun on the 32nd Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), today, urging the participants to agree on the elusive broadcasting treaty, which has lain on the table since 1996.

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