Coming soon, stealth anti-podcaster treaties?
May 2nd, 2006

Cory Doctorow’s righteous tirade in boingboing brings to our attention an international stealth counterattack on many-to-many communication by those whose profit depends on captive and passive audiences:

The UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization has reconvened to discuss a treaty that will kill innovative Internet audio/video offerings — like podcasting, YouTube, Google Video, and Democracy Player — in order to protect the business models of a few entrenched broadcasters. This is the Broadcast Treaty, and the process — never pretty — got uglier than ever today.

The Chairman of this treaty committee has colluded with the US to expand this treaty to cover the Web, and to be sure that it contains a clause that will give DRM even more mandatory protection than it enjoys today. As the committee reconvened today, the Chairman revealed that he’d gone even further in giving the US what it wants, at the expense of the will of the rest of the world, particularly developing nations like Brazil.

Virtually the entire world has opposed the extension of the broadcast treaty to the Web. Giving people who host Web-based audio/video a 50-year monopoly over the use of the copies they send out is just plain nuts. The Web is full of Creative Commons licensed material, public domain material, and other material that either no one owns, or has been expressly licensed for free re-distribution. The US has carried water for Microsoft and Yahoo, both of whom see a webcasting provision as an easy way of keeping competition from overtaking their video offerings. Even the head of the US Copyright Office agrees that the world hates this idea.

Previously, the Chairman had resolved the problem by putting webcasting into an optional part of the treaty (a small improvement, since the US would certainly require its trading partners to adopt it as part of its treaties). But with this meeting, the Chair has put it back into the core of the treaty — a core that virtually every country in the room has already rejected!

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