Director General of WIPO speaks about new copyright model

QUOTES FROM SPEECH GIVEN ON 25-2-2011 by Francis Gurry, DG of World Intellectual Property Organization

Let us dare to say that the infrastructure of the world of collective management is out-dated. It represents a world of separate territories and a world where right-holders expressed themselves in different media, not the multi-jurisdictional world of the Internet or the convergence of expression in digital technology. This is not to say that collective management or collecting societies are no longer needed. But they need to re-shape and to evolve. We need a global infrastructure that permits simple, global licensing, one that makes the task of licensing cultural works legally on the Internet as easy as it is to obtain such works there illegally.

The sentiment of distaste or disrespect for intellectual property on the Internet that it voices is widespread. Look at the incidence of illegal down-loading of music. We may argue about the right methodology to use to measure that phenomenon, but we are all certain that the practice has reached alarming dimensions.
In order to effect a change in attitude, I believe that we need to re-formulate the question that most people see or hear about copyright and the Internet. People do not respond to being called pirates. Indeed, some, as we have seen, even make a pride of it. They would respond, I believe, to a challenge to sharing responsibility for cultural policy. We need to speak less in terms of piracy and more in terms of the threat to the financial viability of culture in the 21st Century, because it is this which is at risk if we do not have an effective, properly balanced copyright policy.

The history of the confrontation of our classical copyright world with the digital environment has been more a sorry tale of Luddite resistance than an example of intelligent engagement.
Let me move to my final suggested guiding principle for a successful response to the digital challenge. I believe that we need more simplicity in copyright. Copyright is complicated and complex, reflecting the successive waves of technological development in the media of creative expression from printing through to digital technology, and the business responses to those different media. We risk losing our audience and public support if we cannot make understanding of the system more accessible. Future generations are clearly going to regard many of the works, rights and business agents that we talk about as cute artefacts of cultural history, much as the vinyl record has become in a very short space of time. The digital work is going to change dimensions. We see that happening with user generated content. We see it happening also with 3D printing or additive manufacturing, where the digital file is the manufacturing technology and factory. This is the realm of the blue sky and I hope that this Conference can start to develop the tools for exploring that sky.

4 comments for “Director General of WIPO speaks about new copyright model

  1. July 15, 2011 at 12:30 am

    In response to the above mentioned 25FEB2011 speech by DG Gurry, the IFLA, WBU, et al sent the following open letter to the WIPO DG at

    (Apologies for the long URL) The letter 3 times mentions the word ‘balance’ as if every reader should instinctively know exactly what the word ‘balance’ represents. Does ‘balance’ mean the authors have the right to sell to whomever can afford to purchase or access the copyrighted material through conventional channels and — and as in e.g. WIPO SCCR 22_12 ‘African Group’ Preamble P9 they do propose ‘all’ — ALL those who might need to access the book in an alternative format or who can not afford to purchase the book or read it in the norm should obtain theirs for free?

    Is it ‘balance’ when the TRIPS 13 certain-special-cases means that there are more free copies in circulation than those that provide royalties and/or remuneration to the authors and publishers?

    In JULY 2010 I offered (link below) a possible treaty-alternative solution wherein Braille is in fact recognized as a certain-special-case and there is such precedence in the Copyright Law of several WIPO Member countries. While not the ideal, digital BRF Braille ASCII files can be accessed by DAISY players and JAWS-type screen readers.

    The binding-Treaty advocates seem to think that just the mention of the UN Convention on Disabilities means that whatever binding instrument they propose should be the final outcome and seem befuddled as to what to do next when it is not.

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