The 19th session of the Standing Committee on Copyrights and Related Rights (SCCR) concluded this past Friday. Since my last post, the SCCR discussed the treaty for protection of audio visual performers (AV Treaty) and also a treaty for protection of broadcasting organizations.
The AV Treaty proposes to provide copyright protection to actors and other performers in movies and other audiovisual works. An effort to conclude the AV treaty had failed in 2000, as countries failed to reach agreement on the issue of how rights would be transferred from performers to producers. The issue is significant because, a motion picture involves the creative input of a large number of people and requires rights to be aggregated in one entity, usually the producer, to enable licensing rights to it. The law with respect to transfer of rights varies in different jurisdictions. In the United States, contracts negotiated between actors and producers could treat contributions to movies as works for hire and the producer is the copyright owner in the first instance. Other jurisdictions do not follow a similar regime.
The AV treaty, which had remained dormant since the stalemate in 2000, has resurged with some countries, including the U.S., expressing support for moving the treaty forward. Although not many countries seemed to take a position on the AV treaty, the conclusions of the SCCR does reflect a desire to move forward with some speed on the issue. Here is the relevant part of the conclusions:
The Committee will, at its twentieth session, consider the next steps and evaluate if there is consensus on a possible recommendation to the General Assembly of WIPO to convene a diplomatic conference with a view of concluding a WIPO treaty for the protection of audiovisual performances. The Committee noted that the Diplomatic Conference of 2000 adopted a recommendation according to which there was a provisional agreement on nineteen articles. The Committee considered that those articles provided a good basis for negotiations on the treaty. A number of Delegations took the view that the nineteen articles should not be reopened. Other Delegations stressed that the treaty should reflect the changes that have occurred during the last ten years.
The protection of audiovisual performances will be maintained on the Agenda of the twentieth session of the SCCR.
There seemed to be greater support for moving the broadcast treaty forward. Like times before, country after country expressed its desire to move forward with the treaty, although it remains unclear if differences that lead to failure of previous attempts have been resolved. While countries like India and Canada had favored a signal based approach, other countries including Japan and countries of the European Union (EU) had favored IP–style exclusive rights for broadcasters. In view of this deadlock, the General Assembly of WIPO, in its 2007 session, had instructed the SCCR to pursue efforts for a treaty only if it could reach agreement on the “objectives, specific scope and object of protection”. Despite a lack of consensus on the design of treaty after 10 years of negotiations, the SCCR seems determined to pursue the broadcast treaty. In fact, the European Union urged a lowering of the standard of consensus set by the General Assembly so that a treaty could be concluded. Thank fully, the US opposed such a move and also said that it favored a broadcast treaty that did not harm the interest of copyright holders and the public. However, the US favored inclusion of the controversial netcasting provisions in any broadcast treaty.
In the end, the Chair’s conclusions read:
The Committee reaffirmed its willingness to continue its work on the protection of broadcasting organizations according to the mandate of the 2007 General Assembly.
The Secretariat will organize regional seminars upon requests from Member States to ascertain views on the objectives, specific scope and object of protection of a possible draft treaty following a signal-based approach. A report of the seminars will be presented to the Committee at its twentieth session.
The protection of broadcasting organizations will be maintained on the Agenda of the twentieth session of the SCCR.
As the SCCR pursues its attempts to reach agreement on a broadcast treaty, PK and its allies will remain vigilant trying to ensure that a broadcast treaty will not create a new layer of rights and rights holders, hampering the public’s right to access and use information.