Signal failure

BROADCASTERS are seeking new rights - add-ons to copyright - over their work, in a move which could, whether by accident or design, affect all creators' rights.

The European Broadcasting Union, which represents public-service broadcasters including the BBC, has approached the Council of Europe - the 47-country body best known for administering the European Convention on Human Rights, and not to be confused with the European Union - for a new Convention which would give them the right to prosecute anyone who pirated their broadcast signal.

This looks like the same proposal that failed to get adopted at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) last year, coming back by another route. Creators' organisations took the attitude "sure, let them have a right, just as music companies have a right over the master tapes" but vehemently opposed the US proposal that the new broadcasters' right include "webcasting" - because in the future all publishing, including newspapers, is likely to be online and "webcasting". And that was the issue on which the proposed WIPO Broadcasting Treaty foundered, when other countries insisted any new right be limited to protecting the broadcast signal.

The WIPO proposal insisted that it would not affect the rights of authors - such as reporters and videographers - in their broadcast work. But there is concern that in the music industry the equivalent producers' right ends up being the keystone that controls exploitation of all the others. The European Federation of Journalists Authors' Rights Expert Group is watching developments closely, in co-operation with the actors' and musicians' federations and others.

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