WIPO Struggles With Legal Updates

Posted on 3/18/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The World Intellectual Property Organization continues to labor over the updates needed to international laws, which have been greatly affected by technological developments. Though the March session of WIPO's copyright committee reported little progress, issues like orphan works are beginning to make it onto the global IP agenda.

Established in 1967, WIPO is a Geneva-based United Nations organization that unites 184 member states and promotes the protection of intellectual property on a global scale. WIPO develops IP laws, standards and practices, as well as promotes and administers international treaties, including the Berne Convention that offers critical protection to authors of literary and artistic works.

The latest conclusion of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights is that further work is needed to reach consensus on the updates needed to the international laws governing audiovisual and broadcasting rights. The SCCR will continue to organize national and regional activities to protect works in these industries. The ultimate goal is to produce a new or updated international treaty. The last attempt, a diplomatic conference convened in 2000 to update audiovisual laws, concluded without one.

Many delegations to the March SCCR session called on the committee to accelerate work on such unfinished business. Exceptions and limitations, such as measures that would improve access to protected works by the visually impaired and for educational purposes, were identified as another priority.

Artist's resale rights, orphan works and applicable laws were among topics identified by SCCR delegates as needing WIPO involvement. Orphan works, such as a stock image that cannot be identified due to missing metadata, have been the subject of much debate in the U.S. and U.K. creative circles.

In 2006, the U.S. Copyright Office identified orphan works as a problem needing new legislation, but the first bill intending to address it was widely opposed by organization such as the Stock Artists Alliance, the American Society of Media Photographers and other creative industry members. In the U.K., the Gowers Review has stirred up similar discussion. The European Commission has subsequently looked into the issue and published a report.

However, all legal solutions proposed to address orphan works to date have been characterized as posing a threat to photographers and other copyright holders. The Stock Asylum reports that a new U.S. orphan works bill is in the works in both houses of Congress. Whether the WIPO will get involved in the global orphan works debate is not yet clear; SCCR chairman Jukka Liedes said that the next session of the committee would consider which issues make it onto WIPO's near-term copyright agenda.

Copyright © 2008 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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