Copyright Treaty in force March 2002

Out-Law News | 11 Dec 2001 | 12:00 am | 3 min. read

An international treaty to safeguard copyrights on the internet will enter into force on 6th March 2002 which aims to help composers, artists, writers and others to use the internet with confidence to create, distribute and control the use of their works on-line.

The treaty was drafted by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and it updates an international copyright treaty originally adopted in 1886 and revised in 1971. The state of Gabon last week became the 30th state to accede to the Treaty, paving the way for its entry into force.

The WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) is also expected to enter into force in the near future when 30 countries have become party to it (there are 28 to date).

"This is an important day in the history of copyright, making it better equipped to meet the technological challenges of cyberspace" said WIPO’s Director General Dr. Kamil Idris last week.

The Director General emphasised the importance of the new norms provided for in the WCT and the WPPT which, he said, are vital for the further development of the internet, e-commerce and the culture and information industries. He stressed that for the treaties to be truly effective, they must become widely adopted by countries in all regions of the world. He said:

"While we have reached the key number of 30 countries required for entry into force, I urge all other countries to follow suit and to incorporate the provisions of the WCT and WPPT into their national legislation. This will create the conditions necessary for the broad-based and legitimate distribution of creative works and recordings on the internet."

Controversially, the Treaty contains some provisions similar to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, currently the subject of US actions over software code which can be used to disable the copyright protection used in DVDs. The Treaty requires countries to provide adequate legal protection and effective remedies against the circumvention of technological measures, such as encryption. This is similar to a provision of the EU's Copyright Directive.

Background

Copyright law provides protection for literary and artistic works, giving authors the ability to control the exploitation of their works. The law of related rights provides similar protection for the creative contributions of those involved in presenting works to the public, such as performers, phonogram producers and broadcasters.

These rights are provided by national laws in individual countries. International treaties serve to forge links among different national laws, ensuring that creators are also protected in another country than their own. The treaties do not overrule national law, but require the countries that join them to grant some specified minimum rights, and to do so on a non-discriminatory basis.

Adopted in 1996, the WCT and WPPT update and improve the international protection which was established prior to the development and widespread use of personal computers and the internet. The WCT protects literary and artistic works, a broad category that includes books, computer programs, music, art, and movies. It updates and supplements the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the major international copyright treaty in the world today which was originally adopted in 1886, and most recently revised in 1971.

The WPPT will similarly safeguard the interests of producers of phonograms or sound recordings as well as of the performers whose performances are fixed in phonograms. It updates and supplements the major related rights treaty, the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations (adopted in 1961). In this way, the WCT and WPPT provide responses to the challenges of the new digital technologies. It is for this reason that they have come to be known as the "internet treaties."

Both treaties require countries to provide a basic framework of rights, allowing creators to control and/or be compensated for the various ways in which their creations are used and enjoyed by others. The treaties ensure that right-holders will continue to be adequately and effectively protected when their works are disseminated over the internet.

They do so, first, by clarifying that the traditional right of reproduction continues to apply in the digital environment, including to storage of material in digital form in an electronic medium; and by confirming the right-holders' right to control the making available of their creations on demand to individual members of the public. The treaties also make clear that countries have flexibility in establishing exceptions or limitations to rights in the digital environment, and may either extend existing exceptions and limitations or adopt new ones, "as appropriate in the circumstances".

The treaties also aim to safeguard the reliability and integrity of the on-line marketplace, by requiring countries to prohibit the deliberate alteration or deletion of electronic "rights management information": that is, information that identifies a work, its author, performer or owner, and the terms and conditions for its use.

Both treaties also contain provisions on rights of distribution and rental, rights to be remunerated for certain forms of broadcasting or communication to the public, and an obligation for countries to provide adequate and effective enforcement measures.