Webcasting 'excluded from WIPO broadcasting treaty'

Digital rights campaigners are delighted that webcasts won't be protected for 50 years, claiming that the move would 'change the nature of the Internet as a communication medium'

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Friday welcomed the news that webcasting will no longer be included in the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) broadcasting treaty.

The Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations (PDF), which proposes to give broadcasters 50 years of control over the content of their broadcasts, was initially proposed to cover broadcasts over television and the Internet. The EFF describes this treaty as a "a protection racket for middlemen in the TV and Internet worlds" and said that including the Internet was a particularly bad idea as it would "hurt innovation...threaten citizens' access to information [and]....would change the nature of the Internet as a communication medium."

The EFF, which attended meetings held last week to discuss the broadcasting treaty, said that webcasting has been removed from the main treaty draft and put into a new proposal that will be discussed at a separate meeting. But it warned that the US was likely to continue pushing for webcasting protection and that companies which simultaneously broadcast programs on the television and Internet may still be covered by the original treaty.

Cory Doctorow, the former European affairs coordinator for the EFF, warned last year that giving such protection to webcasters could allow them to monopolise material covered by Creative Commons licences, and would enforce the use of DRM.

"This [treaty] would allow a webcaster (anyone who sends you audiovisual material over the Internet) to have a 50 year monopoly over what you do with the material you receive from him -- even if he's sending you Creative Commons-licensed work, GPL'ed Flash animations, or stuff that's in the public domain. It would also make it illegal to break any DRM used in connection with webcasting," he said in his blog.

The new draft proposal for the broadcasting treaty will be available in August, according to the EFF.