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Treaty casts shadow on public domain

November 07, 2003

A United Nations committee on Wednesday approved the world's first Webcasting treaty, which has drawn criticism that it limits the use of works that are in the public domain. 

At a meeting in Geneva, the World Intellectual Property Organisation's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights agreed to prepare a draft of the treaty by 1 April, 2004. A second meeting is scheduled for June, followed by an expected diplomatic conference during which nations that are members of WIPO -- a UN agency -- could sign the final treaty. 

The treaty -- which was proposed by the Bush administration and is backed by Yahoo, the Digital Media Association and other US Webcasters -- generally seeks to extend to Webcasters the same level of international intellectual property protection that TV and radio broadcasters currently enjoy. The Webcasting sections are part of a broader proposal titled "Protection of the rights of broadcasting organisations." 

Jamie Love, who works for the Ralph Nader-affiliated Consumer Project on Technology, says the treaty is worrying because it creates an additional legal protection for works in the public domain that are Webcast. 


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