Years Later, White House Sends Two Copyright Treaties To Senate For Ratification: One Good, One Bad

from the let's-see-how-this-goes dept

It's not clear why it's taken this long, but late Wednesday, the White House sent two WIPO treaties over to the Senate for ratification: The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled -- usually just called "The Marrakesh Treaty" or "The Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind" -- and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, usually just called "The Beijing Treaty." The Beijing Treaty was completed in 2012. The Marrakesh Treaty in 2013. It's not clear why it took the White House until 2016 to move on them, but such is life.

We covered both treaties while they were being negotiated. The Marrakesh Treaty is a good one -- creating a system that carves out a place in copyright laws to make it easier for the blind and visually impaired to be able to get access to books that they might not otherwise be able to access due to copyright laws. For absolutely insane reasons, this treaty, which should have been an easy one for everyone to get behind, took basically forever. The big problem? Big copyright legacy players, such as the MPAA, are scared to death of anything that moves copyright in a direction away from more control by copyright holders. They literally flipped out at the idea of any movement towards making copyright work for the public, even blind people, so that they put on a full court lobbying press that almost worked. Thankfully, it did not. Now, we'll see if they're able to do the same and block the Senate from ratifying it. But, seriously, voting against the Marrakesh Treaty is basically spitting in the face of the blind. The MPAA has done some shameful stuff for many years, but if they block this, it'll be a new low.

On the flip side, there's the awful, stupid and unnecessary Beijing Treaty. This one creates an entirely new form of intellectual property, a sort of special copyright for performers. Remember that awful 9th Circuit ruling saying an actress had a copyright interest in her performance in a movie -- the one that later (thankfully) got overturned? Part of Judge Kozinski's reasoning in his decision was the Beijing Treaty -- which, obviously, hadn't even been ratified yet. Kozinski pointing to the Beijing Treaty was ridiculous for a whole variety of reasons, but with the White House now supporting ratification, things may get even more ridiculous.

Under this treaty, Hollywood, and Hollywood actors in particular, will likely be getting their very own form of copyright, which almost certainly means that ratifying the treaty will lead to new copyright laws that are even more restrictive. It will allow performers to deny the ability to make use of any sort of performance they were in, even if they don't (as they usually don't) hold a copyright in that work. It also expands certain definitions in ways that are incompatible with US copyright law, including an explicit "making available" right (something Hollywood has wanted for ages) and broadening the concept of "moral rights" for actors. While many other countries recognize moral rights (which let copyright holders deny uses they disagree with), the US has rejected them in all but a few limited areas (mainly visual artists). And, finally, the agreement includes anti-circumvention provisions, basically expanding that already ridiculously problematic concept, so that someone breaking DRM in a way that violates someone's "performance rights," even if for otherwise legal purposes, such as commentary and criticism, may be breaking the law.

You may be wondering why Hollywood is such a big supporter of this, since it actually will hand more monopoly rights to performers -- people Hollywood has a history of screwing over. Well, it's because the agreement does allow (of course it does!) the transfer of such rights from performers to producers. So, guess what will go into every Hollywood movie and TV contract? The performers will fork over their rights, and the big Hollywood studios will end up with yet another form of monopoly control to silence people. And, with it will come all these neat little presents that Hollywood has always wanted in regular copyright law, that it might now be able to force through via the ratification of this treaty.

Both of these agreements are big deals -- but in different ways. I'm guessing the reason they're moving forward together is that it's something of a tradeoff for the MPAA. They "allow" the blind to get a few more rights, while secretly chuckling all the way to the bank as they get a massive expansion in copyright via the audiovisual treaty. Hopefully, there will actually be a big public discussion about both of these, and the Senate realizes that the Marrakesh Treaty is necessary, while the Beijing Treaty is dangerous and should not be supported.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Shill, Feb 11th, 2016 @ 11:49am

    No bill should facilitate works to blind people because that would be bad for minorities.

    *Pays minority group to parrot above message

    See!!!

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2016 @ 11:49am

    So, guess what will go into every Hollywood movie and TV contract? The performers will fork over their rights,

    This has always been the real reason for copyright, to allow companies to gain control over works created by people.

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

  3. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 11th, 2016 @ 11:59am

    Well the MPAA is just terrified that the blind might demand to pay less when they are missing out on half of the experience.

    One has to hope that eventually giving into everything the cartels want will finally destroy the industries. Billions wasted on court cases as the 3rd cousin twice removed ends up with rights and sues for billions and control of a performance demanding to be paid for prior use & the image to be removed form the content moving forward.

    Remember back when they actually cared about pleasing consumers, because thats how you stayed in business? Can we go back to that?

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2016 @ 12:05pm

    "The MPAA has done some shameful stuff for many years, but if they block this, it'll be a new low."

    And it will be a new drug free high to them.

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

  5. identicon
    Ed Allen, Feb 11th, 2016 @ 1:27pm

    Re:

    Does the treaty say how long this "performance right" will last ?

    Music executives have recently been vexed by having copyrights revert back to the artists, thereby depriving the execs of years more of unearned income.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2016 @ 1:59pm

    Mike, if you read the IP chapter of the TPP it may become clear.
    Both exemptions for the blind/braille and performers rights are part of the deal

    https://www.mfat.govt.nz/assets/_securedfiles/trans-pacific-partnership/text/18.-intellectual-pr operty-chapter.pdf

    The Marrakesh treaty is mentioned explicitly, not so the beijing (though I'm sure I've seen it mentioned alongside the TPP somewhere)

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2016 @ 2:21pm

    The practice of copyright conflicts with my religious beliefs.
    "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself."
    "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house."
    There is no room in our house for selfishness, avarice, and greed.

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

  8. identicon
    CharlieBrown, Feb 11th, 2016 @ 2:51pm

    It took decades

    It took decades to implement The Berne Convention. And now I see corporations all over the place being declared the author of a film or TV show for the purpose of the Berne convention. This shows how an agreement reached can have rammifications 100+ years later.

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2016 @ 3:00pm

    Re: It took decades

    If the US had of signed it at the time, instead of 103 years later things would have been a lot different.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2016 @ 8:34pm

    We have so many obscenely wealthy people in tech who grew up in the era of the Internet pre-MAFIAA takeover.

    Surely they value Copyright reform? Surely they understand the value of online freedom of expression, having once lived with having it like many of us once did?

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2016 @ 2:21am

    how come in Techdirt land people are always flipping out? maybe there should be a drinking game based on wach tome Techdirt suggests someone has flipped out?

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

  12. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, Feb 12th, 2016 @ 6:49am

    Re:

    The clue is in the name "Supply-side" economics.

    This means that the demand-side can go pound sand, or "vote with their wallets," as the people who already have their money are wont to say.

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

  13. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, Feb 12th, 2016 @ 6:50am

    Re:

    Or "Sharing is caring" as the rest of us would put it. Amen, brother.

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

  14. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, Feb 12th, 2016 @ 6:51am

    Re:

    A drinking game based on "wach tome?" Methinks you have been playing it already, mate!

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

  15. icon
    nasch (profile), Feb 12th, 2016 @ 8:56am

    Re:


    Remember back when they actually cared about pleasing consumers, because thats how you stayed in business?


    No. When was that?

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

  16. icon
    nasch (profile), Feb 12th, 2016 @ 8:57am

    Blind

    But, seriously, voting against the Marrakesh Treaty is basically spitting in the face of the blind.

    Which is especially bad because they can't see it coming.

    Sorry, sorry.

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

  17. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Feb 13th, 2016 @ 10:43am

    Carrot and stick

    Gee, this is reminiscent of the carrot and stick technique.

    Not that it matters: the bad one will pass and the good one won't. Corporate lobbying will ensure that.

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


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