WIPO is trying to carve up the Internet

There’s some serious skullduggery afoot at WIPO, the UN organisation that makes life comfortable for copyright thugs. It’s an outrageous attempt by broadcasters like Rupert Murdoch (and, it seems, the BBC) to create a new IP ‘right’ which would enable them to tax most of the multimedia content transmitted via the Internet — including stuff that is in the public domain.

The lobbying to secure this is breathtaking in its arrogance. And it might just succeed. But the issue is arcane and complex, and most people — including politicians — don’t understand it, or its implications. But they are scared of broadcasters like Murdoch, who control networks like Fox News, and so the land grab might just succeed — unless citizens wake up.

Which is where James Love comes in. I’ve met him a couple of times and find him the lost lucid living guide to the WIPO netherworld. He’s just written the first clear account of what’s going on. It’s well worth reading in full, but here’s a flavour…

WIPO is debating whether or not to create a new intellectual property right in information that is distributed over television, radio, cable television, or through any wired or wireless computer network, including the Internet. This is something different from copyright. Indeed, it is designed to benefit people who cannot get a copyright, because a work belongs to someone else (the person or group that created it), or because the information is in the public domain. The new right is not a “copyright,” but a “broadcaster” or “webcaster” right. It is a bad idea when applied to television or radio, but a disaster if applied to the Internet.

In different ways, the US and the EU both think they can use this right to extract money for simply distributing information over the Internet into foreign markets.

The right comes at the expense of consumers and copyright owners — benefiting the distributors of information. It might be called the “middleman right.” This has attracted a large group of corporate lobbyists who want to see their clients named as beneficiaries of the treaty.

It works like this. If the owner of a broadcaster or webcaster publishes anything, they get an ownership right in the information, equal to the rights of copyright owner, so before you could make a copy, share or reuse the information in any way, you would have to get permissions from both the copyright owner and distributor of the work. This is supposed to “protect” the “caster” for its investments in broadcasting or webcasting…