Friday, January 19, 2007

Impasse at WIPO broadcasting negotiations: Our ship is sinking

January 19, 2007
Thiru Balasubramaniam

The image of a tanker slowly turning its course in a new direction has been used to describe how the special sessions (which convene in January 2007 and June 2007) of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) will implement the 33rd General Assembly's instructions to the SCCR to
agree and finalize, on a signal-based approach, the objectives, specific scope and object of protection with a view to submitting to the Diplomatic Conference a revised basic proposal, which will amend the agreed relevant parts of the Revised Draft Basic Proposal referred to in Paragraph 2. The Diplomatic Conference will be convened if such agreement is achieved. If no such agreement is achieved, all further discussions will be based on Document SCCR/15/2.

However, with Mr. Jukka Liedes, the Finnish chair, steering the helm, it seems that our tanker will soon hit an iceberg, with devastating consequences to follow. Informal afternoon and night sessions on the second day interspersed with pizza, beer, and wine provided gratis by the Secretariat excluded NGOs from the deliberations. During the informals on the second day, parties close to the negotiations informed your blogger that many hours were spent discussing what the "objectives" of a treaty for the protection of broadcasting organizations are. After 9 years of deliberations starting in 1998 in the Philippines, it is heartening to know that this Committee is finally considering the "objectives" of a broadcast treaty. Rather than a negotiation between WIPO Member States, the tenor of the special session thus far can be characterized by pedantic, monotone lectures by Chair Liedes boring the Committee into submission. As Brazil and India have noted, the non-papers circulated in a haphazard manner have no legal status and cannot be considered as a basis for negotiations.

As my colleague Manon Ress pointed out, the Chair circulated draft conclusions this morning on the final day of the first special session. Judging be the lack of a rapturous welcome that these conclusions received by such States as Brazil and India, it seems our captain is intent on scuttling his ship before he would truly guide this Committee to genuinely comport with the instructions of the General Assembly to adopted a signal-based approach.