Australia to Sign WIPO Internet Treaties

When it comes to WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization), there’s plenty of publicity for it to go around – some good, but more bad.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Intellectual Property day also arrived as some criticized it for being little more then a day for lobbyists. Bad publicity or not, Australia’s government has announced that it will sign the Internet Treaties from WIPO.

Yesterday was World Intellectual Property day. On that day, CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association) announced that Canadian music sales dropped 35%. The announcement was criticized by Law professor Michael Geist. Geist suggested that several key facts were missing from CRIA’s press release that has likely skewed the numbers. At the same time, Geist says that it seems the day has nothing to do with creativity and more about copyright lobbyists and intermediaries.

Geist’s suggestion appears to have not been echoed by Australia’s attorney general Philip Ruddock, who announced (posted by Freedom to Differ) that “In the spirit of this year’s theme for World IP Day – Encouraging Creativity – Australia is proud to join the WIPO Internet Treaties.”

What are the Internet treaties specifically? According to WIPO, the Internet Treaties (PDF) “is to update and improve the protection of the already existing copyright and related rights treaties. Those existing treaties date back more than a quarter of a century, to the days before the development of personal computers and the Internet.”

The meat of the treaties appears to be the following, “the treaties ensure that the owners of those rights will continue to be adequately and effectively protected when their works are disseminated through new technologies and communications systems such as the Internet. The treaties thus clarify, first, that the traditional right of reproduction continues to apply in the digital environment, including to the storage of material in digital form in an electronic medium. Second, they clarify that the owners of rights can control whether and how their creations are made available online to individual consumers at a time and a place chosen by the consumer, e.g., at home via the Internet.”

WIPO goes on to say, “The two treaties also break new ground by requiring countries to provide not only the rights themselves, but also two types of technological adjuncts to the rights. These are intended to ensure that rightholders can effectively use technology to protect their rights and to license their works online. The first, known as the “anti-circumvention” provision, tackles the problem of “hacking”: it requires countries to provide adequate legal protection and effective remedies against the circumvention of technological measures (such as encryption) used by rightholders to protect their rights when their creations are disseminated on the Internet. The second type of technological adjunct safeguards the reliability and integrity of the online marketplace by requiring countries to prohibit the deliberate alteration or deletion of electronic “rights management information”: that is, information which accompanies any protected material available on-line, and which identifies the work, its creator, performer, or owner, and the terms and conditions for its use.”

“The move will complement the world’s best practice copyright regime that Australia now has, after the Government’s reforms of last year.” The Australian announcement says, “Australia was one of the first countries to implement the treaties with the Digital Agenda reforms to the Copyright Act in 2000.”

In the announcement, Mr. Ruddock also said, “Australia’s move to join the WIPO Internet Treaties reinforces international co-operation and promotes effective protection of copyright in the online environment […] Consumers also benefit from online copyright protection because creators will make more material available online if it is protected from pirates.”

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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