Tuesday, September 05, 2006

America to US gov't - Kill the Broadcast Treaty!

An incredibly diverse coalition of high-powered public interest groups, industry associations, and corporations have signed an open letter to the US Patent and Trademark Office rejecting the "Broadcast Treaty," a US-led UN initiative that could do untold harm to artists, tech and telecoms companies, scholars, and people with disabilities.

Under the Broadcast Treaty, fair use, Creative Commons and the public domain would be trumped by the "broadcast right," which would be owned by the broadcaster of works. If you got a copy of a work over the air or over the Web that copyright would let you use (because it was in the public domain, because it was factual, or even because the creator had granted you permission), you'd still need to seek permission from the "caster," who would get a 50-year monopoly over the re-use of copies of the works it transmitted.

The proposal to extend this to the Web could put YouTube, Google Video, and innovative podcaster services out of business, by banning or restricting the way that these companies re-use each others' materials. And if you're a podcaster accustomed to lifting other podcasters' material and pasting it into your podcasts, you'll need permission from the company that hosts the podcasts, not just permission from the creator.

The Webcasting provision has been underwritten by Yahoo and Microsoft, whose advocates at the UN work tirelessly to keep the US on-track in pushing the rest of the world to taking it on board. The rest of the world doesn't want Webcasting, but it keeps sneaking back into the treaty, over howls of protests from artists and major governments.

Now some of Yahoo and Microsoft's competitors have woken up to the fact that they're about to get their lunches eaten for them and have signed onto a letter asking the USPTO to quit handing their doom to a couple of companies.

The letter's signatories are wonderful, ranging from AT&T and Verizon to Yale, to Dell and Intel, and library associations from the medical librarians to the law librarians and more. Also on the list are TiVo, EFF, Panasonic, H-P, the US musicians' managers, and many others.

Home and personal networking. Under the current draft of the treaty, the broad scope of the proposed rights, combined with proposed additional rights regarding technological protection measures (TPMs) in connection with these rights, raises questions about whether “casters” would gain the ability to control signals in the home or personal network environment. Such control is without precedent and would interfere with the rollout of broadband and home and personal networking services and limit the development of innovative devices that provide home and personal networking functionality. Accordingly, the treaty should include a provision excluding coverage of fixations, transmissions or retransmissions across a home or personal network. Further, we should note that many of our group believe that TPM provisions are inappropriate in connection with this treaty and should be excluded from the treaty entirely.


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