Sunday, November 18, 2012

Canada readies to attend important WIPO meeting

Next week the World Intellectual Property Organization's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) will continue to discuss possible international treaties/instruments on limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions.  The SCCR is one of the most important bodies at WIPO, since it is tasked with the early work in the formulation of possible copyright-related treaties.  At the last meeting of the SCCR, which I wrote about here, Canada's recent Supreme Court decisions on copyright came under discussion.

It appears that Canada may take a more active role at the SCCR than it has in the past where, at the last SCCR meeting, it made no statement on record, and having not sent a delegate to the Inter-sessional Meeting on Limitations and Exceptions for Visually Impaired Persons/Persons with Print DisabilitiesHoward Knopf writes of Canada's potential role at the meeting: 
This is also, hopefully, a sign that Canada will begin to reclaim its profile, independence and influence in WIPO, all of which has been in decline for many years and for many reasons. Canada needs to be a credible player in all international fora dealing with IP, and WIPO is the oldest, largest and most specialized. Canada may have less economic and political clout on the international stage than the USA, EU, and certain other countries. But Canada is still a G8 country and one that can make a very constructive contribution both in its own interest and for the general betterment of many around the world, including the blind, those who are in developing countries, and those who are in countries that might wish to reclaim their IP sovereignty. There are other signs elsewhere hat Canada is beginning to participate more actively on the international stage, where it was once a very influential honest broker with positive results for itself and the rest of the world. 
I agree with Howard that Canada should take a more active role on record in the negotiations.

Limitations and Exceptions for Visually Impaired Persons/Persons with Print Disabilities
To be discussed Monday and Tuesday, the SCCR will aim to finalize or nearly finalize a text on limitations and exceptions for visually impaired persons to be presented to an extraordinary session of the WIPO General Assembly in December, which will decide whether to convene a diplomatic conference in 2013 on an international instrument for visually impaired persons.  The fact that this extraordinary session has been scheduled is a good sign that a diplomatic conference is a strong possibility. Howard Knopf reports welcome news, from a stakeholder meeting that I also attended, that Canada will endorse the  idea of a treaty (rather than a softer non-binding instrument) for the visually impaired. 

Broadcast Treaty
Negotiations around a new broadcast treaty will continue on Wednesday next week.

In 2011 Canada submitted a proposal that parties to the treaty should be granted the ability to opt out of the exclusive retransmission right that would be granted to broadcasters under the treaty, for free over-the-air signals.  Canada submitted a similar proposal in 2007

Canada's proposal is an attempt to maintain space for Canada's retransmission regime, which allows Canadian cable and satellite companies to retransmit American over-the-air broadcasts without the consent of the broadcaster, but with payment to the content owners under a compulsory licence with the rate set by the Copyright Board.  Canada's retransmission regime is very important to the Canadian broadcast system; under the main (not Canada's) Broadcast Treaty proposals, American broadcasters would be granted an exclusive retransmission right which would see an extremely unbalanced flow of royalties from the Canadian broadcasting system to the American one. This is exactly what American broadcasters are seperately calling for: payment for the rebroadcast of their signals by Canadian cable and satellite operators. (HuffPost reports)  A Nordicity report from 2006 commissioned by Canadian cable companies and other broadcast distribution undertakings argued that such a treaty "has the potential to undo the broadcasting regulatory regime established over the last three decades" (i).  The study predicted that a broadcaster right would cost cable companies millions, reducing the amount such companies are able to spend on Canadian programming and other areas, raising the prices consumers pay, and causing some consumers to drop their service while others cut back.

Canada has in the past argued against the layering of broadcast rights over top of copyright, proposing instead that authorization from the copyright holder should be sufficient, making unnecessary additional authorization from broadcasters.

Canada's proposal has been relegated to a footnote (p. 9) in the current working document that contains the treaty proposals.

Limitations and Exceptions for Educational and Research Institutions
To be discussed Thursday,  the SCCR will aim to conclude discussions on limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions by SCCR/30 (expected June 2015).  As I said in my last post, it's important for educational and research institutions institutions to follow what is happening at WIPO and to ensure that their proposals and interests are brought forward to these discussions, which could eventually set new norms worldwide.

Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries and Archives
Also to be discussed Thursday, the SCCR is aiming to conclude discussions on limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives by SCCR/28 (expected June 2014).

The negotiations will be webcast throughout the week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Amanda Todd disappears from Google 'people' results

Following the tragic suicide of Amanda Todd and the subsequent media coverage and the flood of online commentary, Todd's photo, along with those of two other victims of bullying who had taken their own lives, began to appear in Google search results for "bullying". (Justin Trudeau appears in a similar "people box" when searching on his name.)

Justsin Trudeau in Google "People Box"
"People Box" for Justin Trudeau
A 2008 study noted that the Internet is increasingly a source of information, especially for people confronting embarassing issues.  It also  notes that media can be very influential on those contemplating suicide, influencing modes and mannars of suicide attempts.  Many media, for this reason, do not report on cases of suicide.  (The Globe and Mail explains a bit about the Globe's coverage of Amanda Todd's death here.) The 2008 study also notes that people searching about suicide often do not go beyond the first page of search results. 

For these reasons, I was worried when I saw that a search on "bullying" returned not only some very helpful sites, including (which, by the way, could use some funding), but also three "people boxes" featuring three people who had taken their own lives as a result of bullying.  The first of the three boxes featured Amanda Todd.  I wondered how this search result, in response to a search on bullying, might affect a young person who was experiencing bullying and who was seeking help online.  How would it feel to see three these three tragic cases featured?  There are a variety of possible reactons and reasons for searching on the word "bullying", but it worried me in any case.

I contacted google about this by email, and I see that the "people box" no longer appears today on a search for "bullying".  I think this is a responsible and sensitive response by Google (if indeed it is a response rather than some kind of glitch).  I hope that it may increase the likelihood that people searching for help on bullying will click on the links for sites aimed at assisting those experiencing bullying.

This case, and the 2008 study, raise difficult questions about the management and regulation of search results.  How should Internet freedom, the freedom of search engines, and freedom of expression, be balanced with the need to protect people from bullying and from the measurable and sometimes negative effects of media and web sites dealing with suicide?