10:10 AM Dec 20, 1996
WIPO: CONFERENCE DROPS CONTROVERSIAL PROVISIONSGeneva 20 Dec (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- Some controversial provisions seeking to amend and extend existing WIPO conventions on copyright protection and rights of performers and producers of phonograms, as well as protection of 'substantial investments' in data bases, are being dropped as the WIPO Diplomatic Conference was striving to wind up Friday and conclude the treaties. The plenary of the conference is due to meet Friday evening to approve the text of two treaties -- one on Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the other on Rights of Performers and Producers of Phonograms -- which, if approved, would be opened for signature Friday night at the World Intellectual Property Organization headquarters here. The two treaties aim at updating the 1886 Berne Convention on Copyright and the 1961 Rome Convention on neighbouring rights of performers and producers of phonograms, to take account of the 'digital' revolution. The emerging treaties, have been shorn of some controversial provisions relating to scope of right of reproduction, non-voluntary broadcasting licenses rights, extending copyright and performers rights (now confined to audio services) to audio-visual services and protecting the 'substantial investments' in data bases. These provisions were so controversial, among different industrial sectors in the major proponents of the new treaties (the US and EU), that at one stage over the last few days, there was the prospect that the Conference might have to adjourn without concluding any treaty. But over the past 48 hours, in intricate negotiations, some of these provisions were given up when the main committee began the final drafting work. While a clear assessment would be possible only when the final texts become available late Friday night, a preliminary assessment suggests that an attempt to write rigid international rules that would have had a chilling effect on the Internet Communications, and would have attempted to expand the TRIPs obligations of the WTO have failed -- atleast for the moment. A third treaty which would provided for protection of substantial investment rights in data bases (whether or not the information is already in public domain and irrespective of any originality in compiling them) was given up last week itself. This proposal had created such an uproar, even within the United States (one of the prime forces behind the treaty drive), with lobbies gearing up to block Congressional approval, that the move was given up here. The efforts to rewrite the rules on 'reproduction rights' -- what would be covered by this definition, what would be permissible limits etc, keeping in view the digital technology and communications revolution -- became a casualty of differing interests. As a result, the current provisions of the Berne Copyright law would continue to apply.