If one thing has become clear over the past few years, it's that the broadcast entertainment industry will try every possible route to get rules put in place that favor them at the expense of consumers. Even when struck down in one area, they'll try to sneak them in somewhere else. A favorite move has been the "international treaty." It's pretty sneaky how this works. What happens is they play a geopolitical game of leapfrog
. The industry gets its diplomats to claim that a treaty is needed to "harmonize" international laws on things like copyright, because one country has less stringent laws than another. Of course, the treaty always focuses on bringing the less stringent rules up to the level of the nation with the more stringent rules. Then, the industry works on getting local laws made stronger again... and then claims that the international partners all have to boost the levels of protection again to "harmonize" things. What happens is you get an escalating system where the laws keep getting more stringent as each side tries to "catch up" with the other, while leapfrogging them each time they do. This gets even worse, because whenever people talk of reducing intellectual property protection, the same groups that lobbied for stronger intellectual property laws then start saying that we could never do that because it would violate these all important international treaties, and those treaties are somehow sacrosanct. This was one of the popular arguments used last week at the CATO event
, by those trying to push for stronger copyright laws. They would say we absolutely couldn't change the laws more in favor of consumers, because (oh no!), it would violate these all important treaties... which the same folks had lobbied for in the first place.
The latest treaty to watch out for is the Broadcasting Treaty from WIPO, designed to work out new copyright laws concerning broadcasted and webcasted content. This has been on the table for a while, and despite plenty of folks discussing the dangers
of certain clauses, it looks like the latest draft has put back in all the bad stuff
, and shunted aside many of the important concerns that have been raised by the majority of countries involved. The biggest issue that many have with this treaty is that it would add copyright to any broadcasted content... even if the underlying content is in the public domain. That's extremely problematic, but of course the big broadcasters love the idea that they might be able to extend their ownership claim over content that is in the public domain, all thanks to the importance of "international treaties." Depending on how you read this, it could also make life quite difficult for podcasters
, by setting up systems that clearly favor big content companies at the expense of everyone else. All this, in the name of "harmonization," of course.