A Signal Based Approach or a Signal for Concern?

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WIPO delegates at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights. (Photo: WIPO – Emmanuel Berrod)

In some previous posts regarding the dealings of WIPO’s standing committee on copyright and related rights readers may have noticed the mention of the resurgence of discussion related to a a treaty for the protection of broadcasting organizations.  The proposed treaty, the first major overhaul to the global copyright system as it pertains to broadcasts since the Rome convention, has come under serious criticism from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Creative Commons, and the American Library Association, among others, primarily because of its “signal-based” approach to copyright.  While the need to update and amend copyright laws for the 21st century, particularly in regards to Internet technologies, may seem perfectly logical, the amendments being made are anything but.

So what exactly does a signal-based approach entail?

WIPO has stated that this signal-based approach shall attempt to answer key questions pertaining to the copyright of broadcast signals, particularly as it relates to the ever expanding reach of various Internet technologies and their transmissions. Broadcasters have been especially adamant that an approach  similar to that used in other WIPO Internet treaties be pursued, which outlaw the breaking or circumvention of digital locks and the right for broadcaster’s to be able to encrypt  such broadcasts.

While many will cite the unwavering pace of Moore’s law, and perhaps that of technology in general, as the direct reason for these amendments being “necessary,” it is also necessary that the way such amendments are drafted and implemented be heavily scrutinized.  This being said, it must be noted that, if the SCCR were to pass this treaty, broadcasters would have an additional copyright over the signals that they transmit, including previously copyrighted content.  This would also potentially make permissive forms of copyright, such as creative commons, non-applicable.  Although much progress has yet to be made on this treaty, members of the SCCR have called for renewed negotiations regarding the treaty. After numerous complaints from broadcasting organizations, particular sports broadcasters such as the NFL (who are no stranger to quashing public access to public events), and calls from members of the committee who cited the lack of consensus on the treaty despite its place on the agenda for nearly twelve years, it would appear that the treaty for the protection of broadcasting organizations will be a major point of discussion at the current and eventually upcoming  sessions of the SCCR.In some previous posts regarding the dealings of WIPO’s standing committee on copyright and related rights readers may have noticed the mention of the resurgence of discussion related to a a treaty for the protection of broadcasting organizations.  The proposed treaty, the first major overhaul to the global copyright system as it pertains to broadcasts since the Rome convention, has come under serious criticism from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Creative Commons, and the American Library Association, among others, primarily because of its “signal-based” approach to copyright.  While the need to update and amend copyright laws for the 21st century, particularly in regards to Internet technologies, may seem perfectly logical, the amendments being made are anything but.

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