WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) 26th Session- Consolidated Notes (Part 1 of 3)
From December 16 to 20, 2013, the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) met for the 26th Session. This blog post (Part 1 of 3) summarizes Days 1 and 2 of the proceedings of the 26th SCCR, based on my notes of the session and WIPO's transcripts.
Many thanks to Varun Baliga for putting this together, and to Alexandra Bhattacharya of the Third World Network for her notes and inputs.
26th SCCR – Consolidated Notes of the Proceedings
There are three salient issues outlined as part of the agenda – i) work towards a treaty for the protection of broadcasting organizations, ii) exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives and for iii) educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities.  The number of days to be spent deliberating on each issue was also outlined – two days each on the first two issues and one day on the last issue i.e. exceptions and limitations for educational and research institutions.
The Chair of the SCCR was elected to be Mr. Martin Moscoso, head of copyright for Peru and Chair of the Drafting Group for the Marrakeech Treaty.
Opening Statements by Regional Coordinators
Trinidad and Tobago
The representative commenced his speech by pledging the commitment of the Latin American and Caribbean group of states to work on limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities. It emphasized the need for coherence between the activities of this group and the Millennium Development Goals of the UN and the Development Agenda of WIPO. Effecting the vision articulated by the agenda of this SCCR will help bring about this coherence. Finally, he added that the Group wished to discuss the broadcasting treaty on the basis of the mandate offered by the 2007 General Assembly. This mandate was to pursue a “signal-based approach” to the drafting process of any new treaty.
On behalf of the Central European and Baltic states, the representative reaffirmed the group’s support for establishing standards for the protection of broadcasting organizations in the form of a binding treaty. To this end, the Group put forth its proposal for a Diplomatic Conference in 2015 to the end of negotiating and implementing such a treaty. Finally, best practices were also emphasized and, pertinently, the Group indicated that it understood that the digitalized and globalized business and information economy of the contemporary necessitated a licensing of rights that was adequately reflective of its needs.
On behalf of Group B, Japan emphasized the importance the Group placed on text based discussions to the developing treaty mechanism for the protection of broadcasting organizations. It noted that any further understanding or future negotiations must rest on a common understanding of critical foundational issues such as definitions, scope of application of the instruments and the spectrum of rights or protections to be granted. Finally, an offer to share experience for the optimum functioning of limitations and exceptions was made. It was the opinion of Group B that the extant copyright framework enabled the limitations and exceptions to play out both in the digital and analogue world.
On behalf of the Pacific Group, Bangladesh underscored the importance of situating all countries’ concerns and deliberations on the bedrock of the social and economic development needs of the Pacific Group nations. It identified the responsibility of countries to ensure that the limitations and exceptions were articulated in a manner that copyrighted works were made available to individuals in need. Thus, its vision was for an inclusive and comprehensive framework that catered to the needs of all stakeholders, particularly the most vulnerable and needy. To this end, it saw new international legal instruments as the means.
The Russian representative supported the 2015 Diplomatic Conference time frame and emphasized the value of transparency throughout the course of the proceedings.
On behalf of the African Group, the signal-based approach was affirmed as the basis for any treaty. The needs of the developing countries were also given special importance. While the exchange if best practices and experience is helpful, the Group does not see it as a substitute for tangible, binding treaty provisions.
Representative called for the provisions of the Marrakeesh Treaty to be implemented. The existing treaty framework was understood to be sufficient for the full realization of the limitations and exceptions in the various realms envisaged by the outlined agenda. It was necessary, it opined, for copyright to continue to remain a key incentive for creative processes. In light of this, no further international legal instruments were necessary. Finally, the licensing of rights was also within the scope of this body.
Protection by Broadcasting Organizations
The working document for the treaty for the protection of broadcasting organizations was declared to be the basis for any future text-based deliberation.
Proposal by Japan – SCCR/26/6
The Representative outlined the purpose behind the proposal at the very outset as a step forward from the common understanding regarding the privacy of the broadcasting towards establishing the contours of the scope of application. The proposal was for the introduction of Article 6bis that included two things – first, that signal transmitted over computer networks be included within the aegis of the treaty with an exception carved out for on demand transmission signal and second, flexibility for states in deciding to afford protection for transmission signals over networks by the broadcasting organizations; in other words, the idea of national treatment in the realm of transmission signals.
While welcoming the Japanese proposal, the US Representative noted that the text was still open to changes. Given limited time for deliberations on this, he culled out three points of focus that would aid a streamlined approach to the text: beneficiaries of protection, objects of protection and the scope of the rights.
The EU had two questions directed at the Japanese proposal: whether the two alternatives proposed by Japan (simultaneous and unchanged transmission) have a different or same meaning and whether the nature of the protection is an entirely optional one or at least partially mandatory? Japan later clarified that if the former alternative had webcasting as subject to the protection of the treaty and the latter used the scope of application of this treaty.
Iran highlighted the issue of conflict of treaty protections with the legitimate interests of other stakeholders and urged that this conflict situation should never arise. Further, it added that the definition of broadcasting should not be an anachronistic one and should adapt to the needs of today’s broadcasting organizations and should, in no way, hinder free access to knowledge and information by society.
Venezuela adopted a diametrically opposite stance to most other countries on the issue. It was not of the opinion that broadcasting organizations are entities worthy of rights protection. It stated that the treaty seemed to be more for the benefit of multi-national organizations rather than member states and its citizens.
The Chair outlined the agenda of the meeting as comments on Articles 6 and 7 which is to do with the scope of the treaty and beneficiaries respectively. Further, it was also put forth that the session would attempt to resolve and break common ground on the various discussions had in the regional groups in the previous day. Finally, deliberations would be focussed on Article 5 followed by Article 9.
The Japanese delegate outlined the conclusions of his groups’ deliberations. They want both beneficiaries and broadcasting to be included within the scope of the treaty. The country is of the view that all obligations should be made optional rather than obligatory. There is also general consensus, subject to final wording and definition of on demand, for an exceptions to be culled out for on demand transmission. Belarus expressed its wish for the scope of the treaty to be extended to both broadcasting and cablecasting organizations. It states in no uncertain terms that the signal should be protected. The proposal was to use the terminology broadcasting organizations and rights holding organization. Signals transmitted over satellite must also be protected in the model envisaged by this Group. Its application to the internet was also affirmed; pertinent, since this is a sticking point between the views of the nations and that of important third party stakeholders to this deliberative process. It did mention a clear caveat that these rights should, in no way, affect the rights of the author of the work or that of the users. Responding, in some sense directly to the words of the Venezuelan delegate’s comments the previous day, the Belarusian delegate stressed that his Group does support the idea of conferring rights on broadcasting organizations.
India reminded the nations present that the 2007 mandate, on the basis of which this meeting was being conducted, was for work towards a treaty for the protection of broadcasting and cablecasting organizations using a signal-based approach. A question was raised as to whether the current discussion transcended the limits of this mandate. Chair noted this observation and asked for the views of other states’ on the matter of mandate. The response of the delegate from Trinidad and Tobago on behalf of the group of Latin American and Caribbean states was non-committal in his answer as he briefed the chair about the difference of opinion on this matter within his group.
Moving on to the scope of the application of this treaty and the beneficiaries, it was the view of the CEBS Group, as articulated by the Polish delegate, that the protection afforded by the treaty should be effective, contemporary and technology neutral, else its purpose would be defeated by its obsoleteness. It reiterated that the transmission via the internet must also be included within the scope of the treaty, because that is a major route of circumvention that could be used to undermine the raison d’etre of the treaty. It was also of the opinion that the difference of opinion on webcasting could be overcome using the opt-in system envisaged by the Japanese proposal. CEBS was also of the firm view that, notwithstanding any foundational disagreements, those on demand transmissions that are based on multiple transmissions at the same time should be included within the scope of the protection. On behalf of the African Group, Senegal concerned about questions of mandate. It said that the strict, textual or broad, liberal interpretation of the words of 2007 mandate should be a sine qua non to any further deliberations. The Chair noted this concern and said that the floor was open to this issue as well. The EU stated that simulcasting should be the basic minimum and obligatory minimum, of any protection. It stated that it was open to discussing the extension of the protections to other transmission as its saw merit in such extension. Finally, it clarified that since current discussions were on transmissions and the scope of protection they were well within the 2007 mandate – protection of broadcasting and cablecasting organizations in the traditional sense.
The Chair then turned over the floor for comments by individual countries. Senegal commenced by posing a question to Belarus on the nature of reservations that it envisaged in light of its proposal to protect transmissions, no matter what its nature. Belarus responded that the protection definitely extends to transmissions over the internet but that does not preclude a discussion on deferred retransmissions. Reservations should ideally be outlined be provided for in the treaty itself. However, they can also be in the form of national legislation but it made it clear that such a stance would be a compromise for its Group and would be considered only if nations thought it necessary.
The floor was yielded to Canada. It noted that it is encouraged by the deliberations it had witnessed so far surrounding the various proposals received. It emphasized the value of the optional approach envisioned by Japan, as it embodied the critical component of successful negotiations – the embracing and incorporation of difference of opinion. Russia underscored its support for the unified approach of Belarus. Russia also wished to implement the kind of model that was in the Audiovisual Treaty and the Marrakeech Treaty. It wanted a reservation in the treaty itself that would establish a minimum standard of protection for cablecasting organizations as per national legislation. This would balance out the views of those in favour of an optional system against those who prefer an entirely mandatory one. Mexico welcomes the Japanese proposal and seemed to be generally in favour of it. Australia outlined three distinct issues. It was in favour of protection of transmission over the internet and saw simulcasting as a minimum obligatory protection. Its support for the Japanese proposal would depend on the definition of on demand services. Finally, Australia underlined that this entire discussion should be careful in how it understood the idea of traditional broadcasters and cablecasters. Keen to introduce an air of pragmatism to talk about the 2007 mandate, Kenya pointed out that the concept of transmission has undergone a change since 2007 and since the mandate was one that was conferred by the countries present at this discussion, there was no need to be very rigid about it. It wanted a technology neutral approach. Kenya was also keen on clarity on whether this international treaty was meant to build in existing international protections or was intended to be a stand-alone replacement for any protections that may exist for certain or all countries. It welcomes the flexibility that the Japanese proposal offered. The discussion veered in the direction of mandate yet again as India noted that any change to the mandate must be done by the GA alone. Else, the reinterpretation could be in such a manner as to allow for a treaty to emerge under the rubric of this mandate with countries reserving the freedom to enter into another treaty on the same matter in the future. It spelled out that it was crucial to remain within the confines of the GA mandate through the course of these proceedings.
The US delegate opined that the proceedings were completely in conformity with the mandate of the 2007 General Assembly. It reiterated its 2007 desire to have a clear common definition of a broadcasting and cablecasting organization. Notwithstanding that, simply because of a different mode of transmission, internet and webcasting do not fall outside the ambit of protection. As far as the signal based approach is concerned, the US interpreted that to mean the signal itself and nothing to do with the content – an issue the nations are grappling with at present.
Further, the delegate suggested a refocus on the prime problem facing broadcasters i.e. signal piracy. The suggestion is to give the broadcasters control of the retransmission. This would avoid protection for the content being broadcast and would not fall into the trap of post-fixation rights. An argument was also made for retransmission over any medium in a technologically neutral system. Such retransmission would be limited to simultaneous or near simultaneous (a term that needs definition) only to the extent necessary where the delay is meet technical requirements of delivery or to account for time differences. This would also include prebroadcast signal. There are clear advantages to this approach, as noted by the delegate
- Short and simple.
- Avoids a proliferation of superfluous rights.
- Dos not overlap with the rights in content and does not create additional, unnecessarily layers of protection and authorization.
- Affirms and codifies the kind of protection that broadcasters require to fortify against signal piracy.
- Greater range of rights that could also be codified at the domestic level.
- Could avoid the need for any defined term whatsoever.
- The potential impact on consumer or private use also covered.
Japan adopted a self-confessed cautious approach to obligatory protection for transmission across computer networks due to the absence of a unified domestic viewpoint on the matter. South Africa was also of the opinion that the protection should not go beyond broadcasters and cablecasters. Colombia, however, was of the opinion that the protection should cover both traditional and non-traditional signals due to the advance in technology in the future that the treaty must anticipate. A broad and flexible approach was therefore preferred by this delegate. India expressed a desire to introduce an alternative.
- Inclusion of transmission over the internet within the scope of the treaty
- Whether or not simulcasting is within the mandate of this meeting
- Inclusion of transmission of original programming by webcasting in the treaty
- Deferred and unchanged transmission of broadcasting programmes within transmission over the internet
These four topics have witnessed some form of input or discussion thus far.
Comments on Article 9
Article 9 relates to protection of broadcasting organization and embodies two alternatives – A and B. Alternative A provides for a short list of exclusive rights, a limited right to authorize including retransmission of signal to the public by any means. Alternative B provides for a broader list of exclusive rights, including post-fixation rights and the exclusive right of fix and right of retransmission by any means and making available to the public.
In response to the US proposal articulated earlier, India put forth an alternative.
On the table for comments at this juncture are the US Proposal, the Indian alternative and the alternatives A and B to Article 9.
The EU stated that its position would fall closer to Alternative B than A. It was important for the EU to have broad rights of retransmission of broadcasts on all platforms. Retransmissions should be both simultaneous and based on fixations. They also wanted fixed broadcasts – the right of retransmission where the recipient pf the transmission chooses the place and the time of such transmission – to be included within the treaty. With respect to performance of broadcast signals ij places accessible to the public, the EU stressed that it should be limited to places accessible to the public on payment of an entrance fee as envisioned by the Rome Convention. Protection for prebroadcast signals was also sought, thereby covering a comprehensive list of protections.
The EU wanted to know whether the near to simultaneous transmission would be included within the US proposal. It thought the US proposal was based on a single right and was narrow vis-à-vis the EU one, but it expressed a willingness to engage. On the Indian proposal, the EU wished to enquire whether computer retransmissions would be protected against, given its ease.
Ecuador stated that it wished to add “and cablecasting” to India’s proposal Article 9(1)(i) after the mention of traditional broadcasters. India indicated that this addition was agreeable.
Japan mentioned that Alternative B was preferable to it since it had flexibility built into it thereby allowing for better harmonization and incorporation in the domestic law. Further, it stated that signal piracy had three major classifications – unauthorized access or useof prebroadcast signal, programming carrying signals and fixed broadcast. Finally, it clarified that simultaneous and near simultaneous transmission are protected under the Japanese proposal.
South Africa had two quick comments – that it was interested in the US proposal and preferred Alternative B. The EU also noted with interest the Indian proposal and expressed keen interested to engage with the same.
Both Senegal and Poland affirmed their preference for Alternative B in the deliberations on Article 9.
Iran steps in and articulates the stance that India has taken in a cogent manner. It noted the concern that if the content owner does not grant the right to broadcast over a computer or internet, then piracy could result in the absence of protection for the broadcasting organization. It is important to understand that a broadcasting organization is the owner of the signal. Therefore, if the broadcasting organization is not allowed to rebroadcast or retransmit over certain networks due to the contract then this would defeat the purpose of the treaty. Critically, this point is to do with the need for affirming the right of the broadcaster to prevent his own signal from getting used elsewhere without authorization.
India then went to make two critical clarifications on definitions. Broadcast means the transmission of a set of electronically generated signals by wireless and carrying a specific programme for conception of the general public and it should not include the transmission of signals over computer networks. Broadcasting organization means the legal entity taking the interior of packaging, assembling, scheduling of the programme and converting of the signals with the authorization of the owner of the copyright and related rights for broadcast for the reception of the public. Article 5 of the Indian proposal was distributed to all members and comments were invited. The meeting was adjourned to give time to the regional coordinators.
- Meeting Documents for the 26th SCCR are available at this link.