Sunday, September 30, 2007

Implementing the Development Agenda for WIPO

Commentary and events related to implementation of the development agenda at WIPO:
There are also a number of efforts to apply development agenda ideas to the field of Internet governance.
I will try to add to these lists as I see more.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Development agenda adopted at WIPO

According to Thiru Balasubramaniam, the development agenda has been adopted today at WIPO. The 45 items proposed by the development agenda committee have been adopted by the General Assembly for immediate implementation, and a new Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) will be established. The CDIP will meet twice a year. At its first meeting, the financial and human resources required to implement the development agenda will be discussed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Broadcast Review and Copyright

The recently published review of Canadian broadcasting policy by Laurence Dunbar and Christian Leblanc makes a number of recommendations with regard to copyright and Canadian broadcasting.
First, the report provides a primer on the main areas in which CRTC policy intersects with copyright policy.
  • Signal substitution. The first copyright-related area of broadcasting policy is signal substitution. Here, the CRTC acts "to protect programming rights" through simultaneous substitution, wherein cable companies substitute Canadian signals over simultaneous American broadcasts of the same programming. This protects "the value of the local rights to television programming acquired by over-the-air broadcasters," allowing Canadian broadcasters to have a monopoly on the advertising market for that program. (p. 59-60)
  • Retransmission. The second copyright-related area of broadcasting policy is retransmission. Here, the Copyright Act gives cable companies a statutory right to retransmit local and distant signals. In the case of distant signals, they must pay royalties set by the Copyright Board. This statutory license was argued to apply equally to Internet broadcasters like JumpTV and ICraveTV, but legislation passed in 2002 restricted the statutory license to offline broadcasters only. A public consultation by the CRTC led it to conclude that no change was necessary to CRTC policy with regard to this issue.
  • CRTC regulations referred to by the Copyright Board. The report notes that some CRTC regulations are referred to by the Copyright Board in setting royalty rates, and that changes to those regulations can affect the royalty rates paid by broadcasters. CRTC regulatory changes can therefore require copyright collectives to update their royalty regimes to compensate for CRTC regulatory changes that would adversely affect broadcasters' royalty payments. Delays by copyright collectives in doing so can, in turn, delay CRTC regulatory changes. (p. 65-68)
  • Concerns about competition from copyright-infringing Internet content. The report makes note that copyright-infringing content on the Internet may be cutting into broadcasters' audiences. (pp. 75, 243) "Other than copyright laws," the report observes, "there are no protections currently in place to shield Canadian broadcasters from the effects of Internet-based programming." (p. 76) However, the CRTC has seen that, in radio at least, broadcasters remain fiscally healthy despite the challenges of new media and online competition. (p. 21)
Second, the report makes several recommendations:
  • The report recommends that the CRTC become involved in a multi-disciplinary committee to address policy areas that fall outside the CRTC's mandate, such as copyright policy. (p. 28, recommendation 4-5) In general, the report argues that "there is a case for the Commission paying closer attention to issues relating to copyright and copyright policy when it is exercising its authority to regulate the broadcasting system, and for the Commission to coordinate its efforts with those government bodies that are responsible for copyright where there is an overlap between broadcasting regulation and copyright policy or enforcement as it relates to broadcast undertakings." (p. 59)
  • The report recommends reevaluation of the simultaneous substitution policy in light of its effects on the scheduling of Canadian programming. (p. 50, recommendation 6-3)
  • The report recommends that the CRTC's exemption for New Media should be reassessed: "Many of the observations made by the Commission regarding New Media and Internet
    retransmission in 1999 and 2001 about the nature of the Internet are no longer valid
    and need to be re-assessed." (p. 68) However, such a reassessment should not go too far: now that geo-blocking can be effectively carried out (Internet sites can effectively control which geographical regions can view them), concerns that Internet broadcasting could undermine territorial licensing of broadcasts are no longer justified, and companies like JumpTV need not break the boundaries of territorial markets. Although these companies do not presently benefit from the statutory license under the Copyright Act, they are able to set up private licensing arrangements with rights holders, and the CRTC New Media exemption means that they do not conflict with CRTC regulations. This is, the report recommends, the way it should be: "We recommend that, to the extent that private licensing agreements among producers, distributors, and broadcasters continue to find ways to provide new business models and new platforms from which Internet users can access programming, the Commission be wary of interfering in this nascent market by attempting to introduce regulatory measures that could disrupt existing and developing business models." (p. 59-68, recommendation 8-1)
  • The Report recommends a new national policy for electronic media, dealing with a variety of policy areas, including copyright: "Canada is in need of a national policy for electronic media, and needs to have available all of the tools of government to give effect to it. This
    likely includes copyright, fiscal measures, and new programs to incent Canadian participation in new media ventures. While it is beyond the jurisdiction of the CRTC to implement this national policy on its own, we urge the Commission to consult with other Governmental agencies and departments to begin such a process." (p. 78, recommendation 9-1)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Canada supports discussion on ouster of WIPO director general?

Intellectual Property Watch reports that Canada may be in support of a proposed agenda item for the upcoming (next week) meeting of the WIPO General Assembly. The proposed discussion (number 12 on the proposed agenda) pertains to the discovery that the WIPO Director-General Kamil Idris misrepresented his age by 9 years on official WIPO documents over many years, and suppositions that he may have advanced more quickly through the ranks at WIPO by appearing, as a result, to be older than he really was.
While, according to IP-Watch, many developed countries support further pursuit of this issue and call for Idris to step down (including the EU and Portugal, the current head of Group B of which Canada is a member), many developing countries support Idris, who is from Sudan. According to IP-Watch, some developing countries consider the whole issue to be a politically-motivated smear campaign over an issue that has been blown out of proportion and is insufficient to justify calls for Idris' resignation.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Intellectual Property Issues in ICT4D

My report, Intellectual Property Issues in ICT4D, is now available online. Prepared for Canada's International Development Research Centre, this report reviews intellectual property issues in the area of information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D). Issues covered include open access, Creative Commons, free and open source software, copyright limitations and exceptions, traditional knowledge, collective management organizations, competition policy, the WIPO development agenda, and the draft Access to Knowledge Treaty as they relate to intellectual property and developing countries.

Canada Objects to IP Clauses of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Canada has expressed its intent to vote against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in part because of objections to clauses it includes on intellectual property. In a press release, Canada said, "We have stated publicly that we have significant concerns with the wording of provisions of the Declaration such as those on: [...] intellectual property[...]."

The intellectual property-related clauses in the treaty include:

Article 11
2. States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.

Article 31
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural
heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

CIPO updates business plan

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has just updated their business plan. One element of the plan includes a focus on international copyright. According to CIPO's plan, CIPO will become more active on the international stage. In September, for example, CIPO will head the Canadian delegation to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)'s meeting of the General Assembly, where the proposed development agenda for WIPO will be voted upon. CIPO's Commissioner of Patents, Registrar of Trade-marks and Chief Executive Officer, David Tobin, led the delegation last year. Mary Carman took over his position in April.