The following message from Seth Johnson, Corresponding Secretary, New Yorkers for Fair Use, was posted a few days ago on the Book People user group's bulletin board. It has implications for what we do, and deserves a response.
[Book People Moderator: The statement below has to do with proposed new monopoly grants for "webcasts" of audiovisual material, including material in the public domain, that could prevent others from legally using the materialeven if they were permitted to do so under normal copyright law. This could include audio recordings and images of or from online books. Read on for details. - JMO]
Please review the important joint statement below, related to the
WIPO Broadcaster's Treaty, and consider adding your signature if
you are an American citizen. Also make sure those you know who
should sign are also given the opportunity.
If you choose to sign, please send your name along with an
affiliation or appropriate short phrase to attach to your name
for identification purposes, to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your organization endorses the statement, please indicate that
separately, so your organization will be listed under that
Thank you for consideration.
New Yorkers for Fair Use
Joint Statement to Congress:
Dear (Relevant Congressional Committees) (cc the WIPO
Negotiations are currently underway at the World Intellectual
Property Organization (WIPO) to develop a treaty giving
broadcasters power to suppress currently lawful communications.
The United States delegation is also advocating similar rights
for "webcasters" through which the authors of new works
communicate them to the public.
Some provisions of the proposed "Treaty on the Protection of
Broadcasting Organizations" would merely update and standardize
existing legal norms, but several proposals would require
Congress to enact sweeping new laws that give private parties
control over information, communication, and even copyrighted
works of others, whenever they have broadcast or "webcast" the
The novel policy areas addressed by this treaty go beyond
ordinary treaty-making that seeks worldwide adherence to U.S.
policy. Instead, this initiative invades Congress' prerogative to
develop and establish national policy. Indeed, even as Congress
is debating how best to protect network neutrality, treaty
negotiators are debating how to eliminate it.
The threat to personal liberties presented by this treaty is too
grave to allow these new policy initiatives be handed over to an
unelected delegation to negotiate with foreign countries, leaving
Congress with the sole option whether to acquiesce. When dealing
with policies that are related to copyright and communications,
Congress's assigned powers and responsibility under Article I,
Section 8 of the Constitution become particularly important. We
urge two important steps. First, the new proposed regulations
should be published in the Federal Register, with an invitation
to the public to comment. Second, the appropriate House and
Senate committees should hold hearings to more fully explore the
impact of these novel legal restrictions on commerce, freedom of
speech, copyright holders, network neutrality, and communications
Americans currently enjoy substantial freedoms with respect to
broadcast and webcast communications. Under the proposed treaty,
the existing options available to commercial enterprises and
entrepreneurs as well as the general public to communicate news,
information and entertainment would be limited by a new private
gatekeeper who adds nothing of value to the content.
Communications policies currently under discussion at the FCC
would be impacted. Individuals and small businesses would be
limited in their freedom of speech. Copyright owners would find
their freedom to license their works limited by whether the work
had been broadcast or webcast. The principle of network
neutrality, already the subject of congressional hearings, would
be all but destroyed.
As able as the staff of the United States Patent and Trademark
Office and the Library of Congress may be, it was never intended
that they alone should stake out the United States national
policy to be promoted before an unelected international body in
entirely new areas abridging civil liberties. Congress should be
the first to establish America's national policies in this new
area so that our WIPO delegation will have sufficient guidance to
achieve legitimate objectives without impairing Constitutional
principles such as freedom of speech and assembly, without
impairing the value of copyrights, and without granting to
private parties arbitrary power to suppress existing freedoms or
burden new technologies.
We cannot afford for Congress to wait for the Senate to be
presented with a fully formed treaty calling for the enacting of
domestic law at odds with fundamental American liberties foreign
to American and international legal norms, and that would bring
to a close many of the benefits of widespread personal computing
and the end-to-end connectivity brought by the Internet. We ask
Congress to use its authority now to shape these important
communications policies impacting constitutionally based
copyright laws and First Amendment liberties.