How The MPAA Fought To Keep Audiovisual Materials Out Of WIPO Treaty For The Blind/Deaf; And How That's A Disaster For Education
from the a-serious-problem dept
The MPAA has been trying to rehabilitate its image concerning its well documented attempts to screw over the blind and the deaf in blocking the decades-in-negotiations WIPO treaty to improve access to works. Over at KEI, Fedro De Tomassi, has a detailed explanation for how the MPAA fought to keep “audio-visual works” completely out of the treaty, and the massive impact it has on education. First, he notes how frequently video is now used in the classroom:
Since I started taking classes at St. Olaf college 3 years ago, there has not been one professor that has not used some sort of audiovisual aid during the course. I am a political science major, and the trends of using videos is no different in the humanities. For example in my Russian and Eurasian politics class, we studied the relations between the Soviet Union and its satellite states today, and the use of Youtube videos and documentary films were instrumental in giving us a better understanding of the situation. The use of videos in education has become a norm to address the needs of various types of learners as well as to complement the various tools and sources at the disposal of the professors.
Videos are not used solely in the classroom, they are assigned as homework and part of the syllabus and the “reading list” of most if not all courses you have to take to get a bachelor today. Audiovisual materials also compose a large part of the library. Archival footage for example is an essential part of a history major curriculum.
Just last week, I had dinner with a university professor who was telling me the difficulty she had in trying to get the use of videos approved for her teaching, asking a variety of people about the copyright issues of even linking to clips online and getting back vague or contradictory answers.
Fedro then points out how the MPAA made sure the treaty for the blind and the deaf turned into one just for the blind.
In 2009, the Motion Picture Industry began to lobby the Obama Administration to narrow the treaty to “print disabilities” only, and to eliminate deaf persons as beneficiaries. By 2010, the Obama Administration took a hard line in the WIPO negotiations, backed upon by the European Union, to narrow the treaty, excluding deaf persons. This was designed to overcome political opposition from the MPAA, and the USPTO said the compromise on beneficiaries was necessary for the text to move forward. In November 2010, the WIPO SCCR agreed to separate the more “mature” issues of visually impaired and reading disabilities from “other disabilities” in its negotiations. In June 2011, a new committee sponsored negotiating text for this treaty (SCCR/24/9) defined beneficiaries in such a way that deaf persons were excluded.
But, that’s not all. There were still questions around “audiovisual works” and the MPAA went to work again:
From 1985 to 2011, the various treaty proposals all would have covered any copyrighted work, including, for example SCCR/23/7, the text published in December 2011. But shortly after the MPAA was able to remove deaf persons as beneficiaries, they lobbied the Obama Administration to remove audiovisual works from the text. The Obama Administration proposed this formally in June 2012, and in December 2012, there was a deal to eliminate audiovisual works from the text, in order to get an agreement to hold a diplomatic conference in June 2013. Since nothing is set in stone in the negotiation, that decision can be changed, but it will probably require a change of position in the Obama White House, which has threatened to block the treaty if audiovisual works are included.
The MPAA’s claims that it wants this treaty passed ring pretty hollow. It wants a completely gutted version approved at a time when audiovisual works are increasingly not just important, but necessary, for education.