Representatives of the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA) are here lobbying hard for WIPO to pass a treaty that gives broadcasters exclusive rights in their signals. In a glossy brochure that's being handed out to delegates here, NABA describes its members as “network broadcasters both public and private,” and notes that the public function of broadcasters is
to provide the public with information and entertainment and provide a vehicle for creative expression. Broadcasting is also a manifestation of freedom of expression, and, in some regions, is one of the motors for political, social, and cultural development.”
The brochure goes on to state the same talking points that NABA, the NAB, and others have been repeating during this process–that the treaty is needed to protect against signal piracy, that only exclusive rights will do, and so on.
But there's a problem here: tucked within that glossy brochure NABA's handing out, there's a little asterisk, with a long footnote…
That footnote reads:
National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service do not support a Diplomatic Conference to adopt a treaty based on the April 20, 2007 non-paper because they do not believe the treaty provides adequate protection for the fair use of broadcast and cablecast matter for newsgathering and other purposes. Bell ExpressVu does not support a Diplomatic Conference because it believes the proposed exclusive retransmission right exceeds what is necessary to prevent signal piracy or protect investment and does not contain a reservation that would permit a signatory to limit or not apply the application of the retransmission right.
But the problems don't stop there. Apparently, NABA needs a supermajority of consensus before it can adopt a policy position. Despite this, NABA was so keen to push the treaty, they were willing to sidestep their own bylaws to advocate for it.
So despite the fact that some of their own members–including the largest public broadcasters in the US–have real problems with the treaty, NABA is pushing forward with it. Nor is NABA exactly leading the charge for limitations and exceptions that would preserve fair use and news commentary. NPR, one of the most respected news organizations on radio in the US, worries that the treaty may harm those very values of free expression that NABA claims to represent, and the result? Not more internal debate, but some fine print. Another member, Bell ExpressVu, thinks that the exclusive rights in the treaty are unnecessary. NABA's response? a footnote.
If the treaty does grant broadcasters new rights, such behavior does not bode well for the broadcasters' ability to not abuse them.