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Copyright debate carries on at WIPO in Geneva

I’M BACK in Geneva for the World Intellectual Property Organization's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights.

Country representatives spent most of Monday and all of Tuesday debating a Treaty to give broadcasters rights to protect their signal from "piracy". This would be through granting a "neighbouring right" to copyright: another example of one of these is the right that music producers have in "master tapes". Delegates discussed this in an "informal session" which meant that we civilians could listen but not report anything.

The proposed Broadcasting Treaty

The Chair reported that they were closer to consensus.

The term of protection - how long it lasts - will be discussed later, when other matters are clearer: the Chair proposes to make it clear that 50 years, 20 years and other terms will be on the table.

Chile reports that they now have a single definition of "broadcasting" - possibly the most conentious issue, since some proposals would have extended the "neighbouring right" to practically everything on the internet. One country's representative clarifies privately that that part - extending the neighbouring right to material disseminated over the internet - is "still in play".

Theatre of the theatre

Russia is promoting a new right, alongside copyright, for theatre directors. This will be... interesting: there's a meeting promoting it at 08:30 which is a most untheatrical time.

Wednesday: exceptions to copyright

The Chair presented a "Draft Action Plan" on limitations and exceptions to copyright in general. It proposes further studies on existing law and other matters, and a conference on exceptions in general in the autumn of 2019.

The IFJ responded:

The International Federation of Journalists represents 600,000 jornalists in 140 countries worldwide, North and South.

Looking for a moment to the Draft Action Plan, the IFJ appreciates the numerous references to involving "stakeholders" in discussions - but is disappointed that the only mention of who they may be is a reference to "publishers and consumers" participating in a brainstorming on libraries.

The IFJ reminds the Committee once more that without the dedication of professional authors and performers, publishers have nothing to publish, consumers have only amateur creations to consume, and libraries have little or nothing new to make available.

We welcome the contribution by Ecuador, representing GRULAC, noting that a balanced solution involves recognising the interests of creators. We agree with Lithuania and others that the best way forward is to share best practices.

It would be unfortunate to subsidise schools or libraries or archives at the expense of authors or performers - especially when new technology means that libraries effectively become publishers. Journalism in particular is fragile and under threat worldwide. In order to promote informed public debates and to represent the diversity of our cultures and political developments, journalists and other authors need your support - particularly in the global South.

An organisation has shown up calling itself the Authors Alliance but celebrating the joys of giving your work away. Information professionals interested in forming Librarians' Alliance please do get in touch...

Thursday: exceptions for education

Delegates discussed the Chair's proposal for an Action Plan of studies and conferences. Anti-authors'-rights lobbyists vented. The IFJ responded:

The International Federation of Journalists of course supports high-quality education for all. Of course there is self-interest here: interesting, high-quality journalism needs an educated audience; not to speak of educated journalists.

That means that the IFJ supports fully-funded education - though ensuring this funding is, sadly, outside the competence of this Committee.

The IFJ recognises the difficulties posed, in the global South in particular, by the price of research journals and some textbooks. We believe the solutions to this include flexible pricing.

The IFJ insists on the need for creators, including of course journalists, to be able to make a living independently in order to produce high-quality work worthy of a place in education.

A sustainable income for authors from our works is essential to maintaining independent. We ask delegates again to consider what would happen if, for example, schools were obliged to rely on works by authors who wanted to give their work away.

My own work as a journalist includes editing readers' letters pages. In this I am pursued by people who want to give their work away, and in my experience they divide into those with eccentric personal obsessions and those who are advancing a commercial interest.

We must depend inependent authorship. Thank you.

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