Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Senate Judiciary Committee Comes Out Against Unnecessary Broadcast Rights

from the a-bit-of-good-news dept

For many years, the "big content" entertainment industry has been pushing for a special broadcasting treaty that would give them many additional rights to content beyond what traditional copyright granted. It was actually a combination of two sneaky tricks that Big Content often uses to increase its ability to control content. First, they play an international game of leapfrog, where they push for stricter copyright laws in one particular country, then they use international treaties, to try to get the countries with less protective laws to feel obligated to make their laws even more strict to match up with "international obligations." In the case of the WIPO Broadcast Treaty, the trick was to automatically give control to broadcasters of content they broadcast -- even if it's public domain content. The push by the industry caught the attention of plenty of people who noted that the policy didn't seem to benefit society in any way -- but did serve to benefit a few big companies in the broadcast industry, at the expense of lots of smaller, more innovative companies.

Luckily, that story did get enough attention that plenty of people protested, and it appears (oh my!) that even some Senators realized that the WIPO Broadcast Treaty was problematic. The top folks in the Senate Judiciary Committee have sent a letter to the US's delegation to WIPO (made up of the Register of Copyrights and the Director of the Patent Office -- both of whom have publicly made statements supporting more protectionist policies) suggesting that the treaty with those clauses is extremely troublesome and should not be allowed: "While we support the need to protect against signal theft of broadcast transmissions, the treaty appears to go beyond this purpose and grant broadcasters a right in their transmissions similar to a content holder's copyright. As a result, the rights that would be granted to broadcasters by the Revised Draft Broadcasting Treaty could limit legitimate, fair use of the content and would add an unnecessary layer of uncertainty in consumer use." That's a good sign, but given how long this proposal has been around, and how many times its popped up again (as well as the strength of the lobbyists behind it), it's a long way from over. It's quite likely that we'll be seeing this again sometime in the future.

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  • identicon
    Joe Smith, 6 Mar 2007 @ 6:41pm


    I know this is a little off topic but:

    If the broadcasters are going to irradiate my body with their signals I should have the right to decode and watch those signals if I can.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2007 @ 8:05pm

    "It's quite likely

    that we'll be seeing this again sometime in the future."

    Yes. Forever, in fact. Big business never gives up looking for politicians to buy - and sooner or later, they find them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Louis B, 6 Mar 2007 @ 9:54pm

    Fear Mongering

    Here in Canada, the MPAA is accusing the country of being a hotbed of "pirates" to try to force the government to have tougher laws for themselves. The MPAA is saying that Canada is responsible for 50% of the camcorder piracy (the RCMP say about 3%) and that Canada is soft of those criminals. The MPAA also has two senators saying those same things (wonder who got paid some money by the MPAA?) trying to scare us and threatening dire consequences if our government doesn't do what the MPAA wants.

    I hope that our government realize what is going on and doesn't cave in to those money grabbing corporations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wizard Prang, 7 Mar 2007 @ 6:32am

      Camcorder Piracy is a problem?

      How many people watched a camcorder-pirated movie, enjoyed it... then decided not to purchase?

      Is it a problem? Sure.

      Is it a major loss of revenue? I don't think so.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Louis B, 6 Mar 2007 @ 9:56pm

    Frear Mongering

    In my last post, I left out the source of my information. It was the Toronto Star of Monday, March 5, 2007, Business section. Page E1 and E4.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Enrico Suarve, 7 Mar 2007 @ 12:34am

    Share the vibe

    I don't know how you send an attaboy to congressional members but Mr Leahy, Mr Specter and their cohorts deserve one for this

    Serious - if you send their campaign offices notes of approval, maybe congress will start to realise that acting this way is a vote winner, and pay less attention to lobbyists. Yes I realise that this is a little naive given the money involved, but in order to be lobbied you have to be there in the first place...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, 7 Mar 2007 @ 2:18am

    Re: Fear Mongering

    YOu reliase that it would ahve been beter not to put up your name and to use "Canadian Police" instead of RCMP, since a bigoted Yank is going to call you an idiot for having a French name adn make some dumb joke about the mounties not knowing anything about modern society becaus they use horses.

    One of the governemtn opposed to stonger enforcement laws should demmnd the MPAA expalin thier statistics, under oath.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2007 @ 7:44am

      Re: Re: Fear Mongering


      You lose at the internet. Please unplug your computer and never darken our screens with your drivel ever again.

      Thank you,
      The Internet

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Middleton, 7 Mar 2007 @ 2:24am

    Some useful info

    This whole treaty is a monster for people to get their head around as it quietly chunters on in the interminably dull halls of the WIPO in Geneva. I think negotiations have been going on for over six years.

    It is as you say a power grab by the broadcasters to fight against online video transmission. That is why you are seeing the tech industry and civil society lobby groups all joining up in a happy coalition to fight against it - and rightly so!

    CPTech have been writing a wonderful blog on the subject which is at - on their latest update their is some good information about a recent European Commission meeting on the Treaty. I would recommend flicking through this which is the presentation of the lobbyist from the broadcasters.

    Frankly its great that some high-up officials in the US have recognised this Treaty for what it is - crap and have done something about it. It is more of a shame that the European Commission and many of the continental governments are a lot closer to their incumbent broadcasters that they will still be pushing for this Treaty to go through.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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