Controversial database copyright treaty rejected
SWITZERLAND–Delegates to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s diplomatic conference agreed, in late December, on two international copyright treaties designed to protect creative works from electronic piracy. The group rejected another treaty that would have created a property right in the information contained in databases.
The adopted treaties extend copyright protection to sound recordings, books and other works distributed over the Internet. The treaties give authors, performers and record companies the right to control the electronic dissemination of their works and to authorize and require payment for distribution over computer networks.
The delegates scrapped the controversial database treaty that would have created a property right in the information contained in databases, which is inconsistent with current United States law. Opponents of the treaty, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, submitted comments to the U.S. delegation, arguing that creating this novel property right would impede the work of journalists, educators and scientists.
The treaties were negotiated by the delegates of 160 nations, including the United States, over a three-week period.
Bruce Lehman, chairman of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, claims that the treaties will not substantially affect federal law. Lehman told The Washington Post that “there is nothing in these treaties that will change, automatically, the dynamic [of copyright] within the United States.” (Treaty on Certain Questions Concerning the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works; Treaty for the Protection of the Rights of Performers and Producers of Phonograms; Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect of Databases)