David Bollier weighs in on the new layer of supra/pseudo copyrights that Yahoo and other companies are seeking via under-the-radar lobbying at WIPO (previous Copyfight coverage: One IP Right to Rule Them All):
[The] United States Government is aggressively pushing the treaty even though its implications have hardly been studied, the public's and creators' rights would be severely compromised, and no similar webcasting law exists anywhere. The idea is apparently to craft a self-serving new legal regime behind closed doors, and exclude the public just long enough for the treaty proposal to become an unstoppable "international consensus."
Which is, of course, how we got stuck with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Meanwhile, over on the Random Bits list, Jamie Love of the Consumer Project on Technology has a lengthy, must-read rebuttal to the argument by treaty supporters that "webcasters" need this fresh layer of exclusive rights on top of copyright for 50 years in order to prevent signal theft by pirates. Not so, says Love.
[Jon Potter of DiMA] says "there's nothing radical about a treaty to stop pirates from stealing and repackaging webcast signals without paying companies that spent money to create, license and transmit the programming."
What he does not note is that all of these things can be addressed under existing copyright laws, if the material being webcast is copyrighted material, and if the webcaster has obtained sufficient rights from the copyright owner. ...Indeed, all the consumer/civil society NGOs and most copyright owners who attend the WIPO negotiations asked for a treaty dealing with signal protection only. But the broadcasters don't need or want a treaty on signal piracy, since there are plenty of existing ways to address it [...].
There are eight separate rights. You cannot read the rights and still maintain this is about piracy of a signal. It is about the rights to control the commercial distribution of someone else's content. (If the broadcasters did have the copyright, they would not need these rights).
The US and the webcasters are seeking parity between the broadcasters and the webcasters. Everything that says "Broadcasting organizations" would be extended to webcasters, under the US proposals. How much of the web that would be covered is unclear, but the current definition includes all combinations or representations of images and sounds, which covers just about everything. [Emphasis added.]
As I noted below
, one of the most troubling aspects of this new set of rights is that they would create a mechanism by which anyone can gain control over the distribution and use of freely licensed material and/or works that have fallen into the public domain
. You feed any combination of sound and images through a web server, and suddenly, people must deal with you. If the material is already under copyright, they must negotiate with the copyright holder -- and, oh yes, also with you. For 50 years. Meanwhile, there has been no real analysis or public debate about the impact this would have on...well, just about anyone it will affect.