(No.131) Rethinking copyright: can we develop a set of common principles?

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Workshop Theme: 
Emerging Issues
Theme Question: 

Question 2

Concise Description of Workshop: 

This workshop aims to build on previous workshops at the IGF, such as “Copyright under a magnifying glass: thought provoking ideas” organized by ISOC and WIPO last year. It intends to take the copyright debate one step further and concentrate on:
• finding common ground and establishing a minimum set of globally acceptable standards or principles, that could lead to a minimum-level of harmonization at global level, ideally in the medium-term;
• discussing how such principles could be legally enforced. In recent weeks there have been various new initiatives that attempt to internationally regulate international property rights.
Initiatives such as SOPA, PIPA and ACTA have demonstrated the difficulties in obtaining the correct balance between protecting intellectual property rights and preserving the openness of the internet. These initiatives have largely attempted to preserve out-dated systems. However, they have helped the copyright debate become a public debate. In addition to the above-mentioned initiatives, there are many other legislative initiatives currently taking place at EU level and at international level. However, at the IGF we have the opportunity to hold multi-stakeholder discussions which are free of pressure to produce binding legislation. This workshop therefore intends to concentrate on developing a minimum set of standards. For this we need to analyse various aspects of copyright, such as exclusive rights, limitations and exceptions, collective management, enforcement and how these need to be rethought for the digital world. We need to establish where our boundaries lie and find a common denominator where all interests at stake – those of artists, businesses and consumers - are adequately represented. The process of digitalization, and therefore how content is created and consumed, is forcing us rethink and reestablish a correct balance of interests. Once common principles have been established, the challenge of enforcement lies ahead. Do we require an international tribunal (such as for example the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea) or could improved practical cooperation between law enforcement authorities do the job? Other challenges, such as phishing sites and child pornography have been successfully tackled at international level and should be used as best practice case studies when combating copyright infringement.

  • Welcome panelists (Jimmy Schulz)
  • Brief introduction to intellectual property/copyright in the digital world and what the aims of the workshop are (Jimmy Schulz)
  • Panelist presentations: Each panelist will offer a 5-minute introduction presentation giving their perspective on the main challenges and opportunities facing copyright in the digital world
  • Audience interventions
  • Final discussion with all participants on
    • What are globally acceptable minimum standards/principles?
    • How could such standards/principles be enforced?
  • Conclusion (Jimmy Schulz) 
Organiser(s) Name: 

Mr. Jimmy Schulz, Member of the German Parliament, Govt., WEOG

Previous Workshop(s): 


Submitted Workshop Panelists: 

Mr. Vinton Cerf, Vice-President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google WEOG (confirmed)
Mr. Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation WEOG (confirmed - remote participation)
Mr. Trevor C. Clarke, Assistant Director General, Culture and Creative Industries, WIPO, WEOG (confirmed)
Mr. Kamran Imanov, Chairman/President, the Copyright Office, Azerbaijan, Govt. Eastern Europe (confirmed)
Ms. Deborah Kulabako, DiploFoundation, Uganda, Africa (confirmed)
Mr. Jeff Jarvis, Journalist, WEOG (confirmed)
Mr. Chris Marcich, Motion Picture Association, WEOG (confirmed)

Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Ms. Linda van Renssen (confirmed)
Gender Report Card
Please estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session: 
About half of the participants were women
To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment?: 
It was not seen as related to the session theme and was not raised
Please include any comments or recommendations you have on how to improve the inclusion of issues related to gender equality and: 


Reported by: 
Linda van Renssen
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 

Considering the ever-increasing challenge of adequately protecting intellectual property rights in our digitalized and global society, the moderator (Jimmy Schulz, Member of the German Parliament) kicked off the discussion by asking the panelists to describe their “perfect copyright” regime, ignoring all existing rules and starting with a blank piece of paper.
Vinton Cerf, Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, suggested reintroducing the notion of registered works. At registration the owner could digitally sign the work and indicate the terms and conditions as to how the work should be treated. Registering transfers of rights, as is done with real property, would help prevent the current difficulty of establishing who a work belongs to and what rights are attached to it over a long period of time.
He criticized the extension of rights to 75 years after the end of life of the creator, arguing that this defeats the original purpose of copyright: to grant rights to the creator for a certain period of time, after which the work becomes available to the public.
Furthermore, the current rigid copyright system should be opened up so that it becomes easier for authors to choose how their work is treated. Creative Commons is a step in the right direction. Given the fundamentals of digital content, the focus should be on establishing a system to satisfy creators (not all want remunerations) and not on preventing copying. Important to bear in mind, is that digital works need software to interpret them and if that software is no longer available or doesn´t work anymore then the “bag of bits” is of no use at all.
Trevor Clarke, Assistant Director General, World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), agreed with the idea of registering ownership and noted that many countries implement voluntary registration systems. Although member states’ opinions vary, he said that he believes the copyright system needs to be revisited – in particular regarding copyright in the digital environment. It relies too heavily on the law which is always slow and in the case of copyright very complex. Despite the current problems however, there are also aspects which have benefitted society and should not be thrown out, he added.
Particularly young people should not be treated as IP criminals. There needs to be education and some cultural change to help them understand freedom on the Internet and the responsible use of protected content.
At the moment there are discussions taking place in Geneva regarding exceptions to copyright, such as facilitating access to the blind.
It is recognized that some people create for the love of it and just want to be acknowledged. However, those who want to be rewarded should be rewarded.
Principles need to be broad in order for them to be accepted in a multilateral environment. The question of territoriality needs to be revisited. We need dialogue and the best environment to discuss these issues is a multi-stakeholder environment.
The challenge of the middleman in music needs to be addressed with transparency, accountability and good governance.
Jeff Jarvis, Journalist, explained that content now has value in new ways, for example through signals we generate about ourselves via Facebook or Google. This value is great but different – it is not recognized by paying for content as was previously done. In this new economy there is value in relationships among people and data about them. Attempting to protect content for sale is therefore not the way forward. The value is also in obtaining credit through links.
He urged policymakers not to try to recreate the Guttenberg print era of content being value in and of itself. There is value in creating an audience for that content. There is also value in the aggregation of that content into a larger data set. There is value around interaction and conversation. We are currently trying to fit a “Guttenberg-era content structure” onto a new technology where the economy is not clear. We need to find technology and business models which work online.
Additionally access is important not just for blind people but also for people with dyslexia or other reading issues.
Chris Marcich, President and Managing Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at the Motion Picture Association, said he believed the current copyright model works - it has adapted to change and not impeded Internet developments and alternative creative models. Changes to the current working model should be carefully considered and justified with evidence. A copyright review at the international level would also need to address the broader issue of Internet governance.
He was skeptical of a mandatory register, arguing that it would have to be dynamic as rights are dynamic and it is therefore questionable whether such a registration system would work. In the US, a voluntary register works and there was a move away from a mandatory register because it imposed burdens on non-national registrants and was inflexible.
He commented on Jeff´s model, explaining that this only works for certain content, while creators with high investments are exploited. Each creator should be able to choose how their work is treated.  
Also, the property rights which underlie copyright are usually permanent. Copyright is a limited granting of rights which has been extended over time. It may be that certain works are more necessary to society than others, but generally this grant should not be expropriated at a certain point in time.
Kamran Imanov, Chairman, State Copyright Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan, explained that the compromise between exclusive rights of right holders and the interests of users is a social contract. The internet does not deal with works but with content and content circulation which creates new kinds of creativity. The term content is the strengthening of the content´s significance and the weakening of its form. Although interests are not fitting, there is no clash between copyright and the internet, therefore we need to find compromise between the two. Using the models of compromise theory we have determined that, in the future we need to find measures for compulsory or obligatory licensing.
Also Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation, had been invited to participate. Unfortunately the remote participation by telephone did not function correctly however, and he was therefore regrettably unable to join us.
Audience Discussion
There were many contributions from the audience - here are merely a few examples.

  • One participant said people will continue to share content and this cannot be stopped by reinforcing the present legal prosecution system. The impact is not made with publication but when that publication reaches people who can do something with it.  Restricting knowledge produced by society with public funding is reducing the impact of knowledge. The way forward is open access. Budgets can be redirected so that authors obtain more benefits. In the current grid of intermediaries there are very few authors which reap benefits.
  • Another participant mentioned that the human rights aspects of copyright enforcement need more discussion, particularly freedom of expression and association.
  • A music manager and artist with 25 years of experience explained how the extended collective rights management system in Scandinavia is an example of what works – you can use a piece of music by default if you pay the going rate for it to a central administration. This has led to the successful streaming services which started in Scandinavia. If the default is that a piece of music cannot be used, then you have to go around asking for permission and the result is that most people will not get paid. This participant added that the idea of copyright is that creators are incentivized to create on the premise that this will result in the widest availability of cultural goods to the widest number of people. What we have however, is a system that returns the vast majority of money to a tiny number of large companies because the rights are owned by the middleman.
  • Another participant mentioned that in the Transpacific Partnership Trade Agreement which is currently being negotiated by the US, New Zealand and nine other countries, the copyright section contains a provision which would give copyright-holders the right to authorize or prohibit temporary electronic copies.
Conclusions and further comments: 

There is no easy answer to the copyright debate, which will undoubtedly continue in the decades to come. Despite many conflicting views on how this issue should be dealt with, all participants agreed that the problem cannot be solved nationally and that the international multi-stakeholder approach is the best way to discuss this issue.