36 Organizations Oppose New Property Rights for Broadcasters

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Sep 5, 2006 - The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is considering a new treaty that would grant broadcasters a new 50-year property right over the content of broadcasts, regardless of whether the broadcasters own the content they are transmitting. Thirty-six companies, public-interest groups and non-profit associations declared their opposition to the proposed treaty, including AT&T, Verizon, Dell, Intel, HP and Radio Shack.

The objection, released at a roundtable discussion of the proposed treaty held by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, set out the basic objections on which all of the signers agreed. Individual organizations also had other areas of concern. "Creating broad new intellectual property rights in order to protect broadcast signals is misguided and unnecessary, and risks serious unintended consequences," the statement said, adding that if broadcasters believe there is a problem with signal theft, then a much more narrow treaty could be drafted.

In addition, the statement outlined concerns that the treaty would interfere with the roll-out of broadband and home networking services and would subject network carriers to the threat of direct or secondary liability.

The objection can be read at www.publicknowledge.org/node/618. Read the proposed treaty at www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/sccr/en/sccr_15/sccr_15_2.pdf.

The NAB has responded to the opposition in a letter from NAB President and CEO David Rehr to Jon Dudas, under secretary of commerce for intellectual property of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and another letter to Marybeth Peters, register of copyrights for the Library of Congress, to correct (as the NAB feels) claims made by the WIPO. In short, the NAB stresses that broadcaster rights at the international level have not been updated for more than 45 years, and that the treaty is of critical importance to the preservation of free, over-the-air broadcasting both in the U.S. and abroad.

The NAB has also created a FAQ on the treaty. Read the FAQ at this link.

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