A judge in the United States has blocked a decision by Canada's Supreme Court. The Canadian court ordered Google in June to remove certain search results that violated intellectual property rights worldwide, even outside of Canada's borders. Google brought the case to the US District Court of the Northern District of California to prevent the enforcement of the order. According to Google, the Canadian court order is 'unenforceable in the United States because it directly conflicts with the First Amendment, disregards the Communication Decency Act's immunity for interactive service providers, and violates principles of international comity.' The district court granted Google's motion.
Knowledge and ideas are key resources in the global economy. The protection of knowledge and ideas, through Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), has become one of the predominant issues in the Internet governance debate. Internet-related IPR include copyright and trademarks. Copyright protects the expression of an idea when it is materialised in various forms, such as a book, CD, or computer file. The idea itself is not protected by copyright. In practice, it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction between the idea and its expression.
The copyright regime has closely followed the technological evolution. Every new invention, such as the printing press, radio, television, and the VCR, has affected both the form and the application of copyright rules. The Internet is no exception. The traditional concept of copyright has been challenged in numerous ways, from those as simple as ‘cutting and pasting’ texts from the Web to more complex activities, such as the massive distribution of music and video materials via the Internet.
The Internet also empowers copyright holders, by providing them with more powerful technical tools for protecting and monitoring the use of copyrighted material. These developments endanger the delicate balance between authors’ rights and the public’s interest, which is the very basis of the copyright law.
Amend existing or develop new copyright mechanisms?
How should copyright mechanisms be adjusted to reflect the profound changes effected by ICT and Internet developments? One answer suggested by the US government’s White Paper on Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure is that only minor changes are needed in existing regulation, mainly through ‘dematerialising’ the copyright concepts of ‘fixation’, ‘distribution’, ‘transmission’, and ‘publication’. This approach was followed in the main international copyright treaties, including the Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) convention and the WIPO Copyright Treaty.
However, the opposite view argues that changes in the legal system must be profound, since copyright in the digital era no longer refers to the ‘right to prevent copying’ but also to the ‘right to prevent access’. Ultimately, with ever greater technical possibilities of restricting access to digital materials, one can question whether copyright protection is necessary at all. It remains to be seen how the public interest, the second part of the copyright equation, will be protected.
Protection of the public interest – the ‘fair use’ of copyright materials
Copyright was initially designed to encourage creativity and invention. This is why it combined two elements: the protection of authors’ rights and the protection of the public interest. The main challenge was to stipulate how the public can access copyrighted materials in order to enhance creativity, knowledge, and global well-being. Operationally speaking, the protection of the public interest is ensured through the concept of the ‘fair use’ of protected materials.
Copyright and development
Any restriction of fair use could weaken the position of developing countries. The Internet provides researchers, students, and others from developing countries with a powerful tool for participating in global academic and scientific exchanges. A restrictive copyright regime could have a negative impact on capacity building in developing countries. Another aspect is the increasing digitisation of cultural and artistic crafts from developing countries. Paradoxically, developing countries may end up having to pay for their cultural and artistic heritage when it is digitised, repackaged, and owned by foreign entertainment and media companies.
The latest edition of glossary, compiled by DiploFoundation, contains explanations of over 130 acronyms, initialisms, and abbreviations used in IG parlance. In addition to the complete term, most entries include a concise explanation and a link for further information.
The book, now in its sixth edition, provides a comprehensive overview of the main issues and actors in the field of Internet governance and digital policy through a practical framework for analysis, discussion, and resolution of significant issues. It has been translated into many languages.
The paper, addressed to organisations that collect, store, or make use of personal data related to Russian citizens, outlines a series of recommendations on how to comply with the existing Russian legislation in this field, taking into account legal, organisational, and commercial aspects.
This study analyses the liability of Internet intermediaries in cases of infringement of copyright and related rights, in 15 jurisdictions.
This paper argues that design and enforcement of antitrust and intellectual property laws must be considered together by any coherent competition policy. These issues are examined in the paper, with the aim to define the efficient government intervention in the field of software.
The report provides an overview of the US Department of Commerce’s policies in the field of digital economy over the course of the Obama administration. It covers area such as: management of the Domain Name System, privacy and security online, innovation and emerging technologies, and access and skills.
This report summarises the state of intellectual property rights protection and enforcement in several countries that are US trading partners.
This report examines the growth of social media platforms and the subsequent rapid surge in digital content shared online.
This session, moderated by Ms Maud Sacquet (Public Policy Manager, Computer and Communications Industry Association), featured discussions on the ongoing copyright reform at the level of the European Union (EU). Sacquet described the current negotiation process as feeding into EU actions for establishing a new digital single market. In this context, the European Commission published in September 2016 its proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which is currently being reviewed by the European Parliament and EU member states.
Mr Samuel Laurinkari (Head of EU Affairs, eBay) presented the position of eBay with regard to the current discussion on EU copyright reform. Laurinkari first emphasised the essential role the Internet plays in bringing businesses and customers across the world closer, allowing even small platforms to benefit from a global reach and supporting economic development worldwide. He argued that the current direction being taken by the European copyright reform could threaten the way most online market places do business in the online world. The European Commission’s proposal would increase the liability of platforms for the content generated by their users. From hosts, platforms would become content publishers. This would raise legal and practical challenges for a company like eBay, whose website contains billions of listings of items.
Ms Eva Lepik (Board member, Wikimedia) also emphasised the potential detrimental effect of the European Commission’s proposal on collaborative platforms such as Wikipedia. The proposal would require every intermediary to adopt automated filtering systems for controlling user-generated content. Such filtering systems appear inefficient, costly, and potentially harmful for human rights. The current proposal of the European Commission does not include provisions with regard to freedom of panorama (i.e., taking photographs and video footage of buildings and such, permanently located in a public place and publishing without infringing on any copyright). The right to disseminate images of public places or art works is not harmonised at the European level, and often it is not allowed to post such images on social media despite the pervasiveness of digital technologies in our everyday lives.
Mr Jake Beaumont-Nesbitt (Policy Advisor, International Music Managers Forum) addressed the potential effect of EU copyright reform on artists and the music industry. He expressed his fears that copyright reform would negatively impact online marketplaces. Article 13 of the proposal indicates that platforms hosting content uploaded by users would have to filter the content directly. This provision would therefore give a more prominent role to already filtered platforms (such as Spotify) and disadvantage smaller intermediaries and artists more generally in engaging with the public. Concerning geo-blocking, Beaumont-Nesbitt argued in favour of geographical limitations to the access of content, but only for the limited time of promotional campaigns. Finally, he insisted on the need for artists to engage more with EU policymakers to see their interests better represented and ensure the protection of cultural diversity.
To keep the Internet engine running, innovation is key, especially when it comes to intellectual property. Unlocking Internet Economy through Copyright Reform (WS 167) addressed the consequences of copyright policies on Internet innovation, with the session organisers arguing that the current Internet innovation system, characterised by ‘multinational corporations, fledging start-ups, telecommunications providers, content creators and consumers [forming] increasingly complex value chains’, often contradicts the copyright regime.