Intellectual Property Rights

Updates

The European Parliament approved amendments to the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market 2016/0280(COD), also known as the EU Copyright Directive, which intends to harmonise aspects of the copyright law across the EU. The vote included two controversial points, enshrined in Articles 11 and 13, dubbed the 'link tax' (or ‘snippet tax’) and the 'upload filter' by critics. Article 11 is intended to give publishers and newspapers a way to make money when companies like Google link to their stories. It extends the 2001 Copyright Directive to grant publishers direct copyright over "online use of their press publications by information society service providers". Search engines and online platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, will have to pay a license to link to news publishers when quoting portions of text from these outlets. The bill says that the new rights given to publishers “shall not prevent legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users”. However, it does not make clear what counts as ‘portions of the text’ or as a commercial platform which could allegedly encompass blogs, RSS feeds, or a Facebook page operated by an individual who has a considerably large audience for example. Article 13 says that online platforms are liable for content uploaded by users that infringes copyright. It requires that platforms proactively work with rightsholders to stop users uploading copyrighted content. This could potentially mean scanning all data being uploaded to sites like YouTube and Facebook. This measure could affect memes - images or videos that spread 'virally' online, often accompanied by a witty snippet of text - and music remixes shared online. The proposal will now enter negotiations between the Council of the EU, The European Commission and the Parliament. If these three bodies agree, it will be sent to each EU member state for implementation in 2019.

Responding to cases in which YouTube's advertising model has been abused, or original content is re-uploaded by others to earn revenue, YouTube has introduced changes in its Partner Program. According to the new rules, there will be no advertisement on YouTube Partner Program videos until the channel attains 10,000 lifetime views. This allows YouTube to assemble sufficient information to determine the validity of the channel and its adherence to the company's community guidelines and advertiser policies. 

The Dresden Higher Regional Court has judged that Facebook users are not liable if they 'only' share unlawful content. However, should they adopt the content as their own, make affirmative comments, or identify with the content, users would be liable for the content their share. Courts are still considering whether sharing content on Facebook constitutes copyright infringements.

Google and Microsoft have reached an agreement with the UK government and the creative industry to limit pirated films and music online. Previously, the film and music industry accused the two companies of 'turning a blind eye to piracy'. With this agreement, Google and Microsoft commit to de-prioritising pirate sites so that they do not appear on the first page of search results. According to Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, 'It is essential that [consumers] are presented with links to legitimate websites and services, not provided with links to pirate sites'. 

The Swedish Court of Patent and Market Appeals ordered an Internet service provider (ISP) to block access to The Pirate Bay and Swefilmer (a Swedish streaming portal), following EU laws and similar judgments in France, Finland, Australia and Belgium. While the ruling marks an important success for the creative industry's fights against torrent sites, Swedish ISPs have expressed concerns, as their obligation to monitor and evaluate digital content could constitute 'a dangerous path to go down on'.

The Domain Name Association (DNA) – an Internet domain industry association – has published four voluntary practices for domain name registries and registrars, with the aim to ‘help the domain name system (DNS) remain healthy as it grows and evolves’. The practices – developed as part of DNA’s Healthy Domains Initiative and following a year-long consultation process with various parties – are focused on: addressing online security abuse (e.g., malware, phishing, pharming); enhancing child abuse mitigation systems; streamlining complaint handling from illegal or ‘rogue’ online pharmacies; and establishing a voluntary third party system for handling copyright infringement.

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.

 

The issues

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.

 

Knowledge and ideas are key resources in the global economy. The protection of knowledge and ideas, through IPR, has become one of the predominant issues in the Internet governance debate, and has a strong development-oriented component. Internet-related IPR include copyright, trademarks, and patents.

Trademarks are relevant to the Internet because of the registration of domain names. In the early phase of Internet development, the registration of domain names was based on a first come, first served basis. This led to cybersquatting, the practice of registering names of companies and selling them later at a higher price.

 

Mechanisms for the protection of trademarks

 

This situation compelled the business sector to place the question of the protection of trademarks at the centre of the reform of Internet governance, leading to the establishment of ICANN in 1998. In the White Paper on the creation of ICANN, the US government demanded that ICANN develop and implement a mechanism for the protection of trademarks in the field of domain names. Soon after its formation, ICANN introduced the WIPO‑developed Universal Dispute Resolution Procedure (UDRP).

The recent introduction of the new gTLDs reinvigorated the relevance of trademark for domain names, ICANN, and overall IG.

ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) authenticates information from rights holders and provides this information to registries and registrars.

The UDRP - the primary dispute resolution procedure - is stipulated in advance as a dispute resolution mechanism in all contracts involving the registration of gTLDs (e.g. .com, .edu, .org, .net), and for some ccTLDs. Its arbitration awards are applied directly through changes in the DNS without resorting to enforcement of trademark protection through national courts.

Events

Actors

(WIPO)

WIPO has developed, together with the

...

WIPO has developed, together with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). Under this policy, WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Centre provides dispute resolution services for second level domain name registrations under generic top-level domains (gTLDs). The Centre also administers disputes under a specific policies adopted by some gTLD registries (e.g. .aero, .asia, .travel). In addition, the Centre offers domain name dispute resolution services for over 70 country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). WIPO has developed a ccTLD Program, with the aim to provide advice to many ccTLD registries on the establishment of dispute resolution procedures.

(INTA)

INTA promotes trademarks with the aim of protecting consumers and promoting fair global commerce.

...

INTA promotes trademarks with the aim of protecting consumers and promoting fair global commerce. The organisation carries out policy advocacy through amicus briefs and model laws and guidelines. It has carried out research on different issues such as the EU trademark system and country guides, and also publishes the trademark reporter, a journal on trademark law. INTA actively engages with ICANN, and has been carrying out an impact study on the costs of new gTLDs.

(UNESCO)

UNESCO sees online learning as a cornerstone for building inclusive knowledge societies.

...

UNESCO sees online learning as a cornerstone for building inclusive knowledge societies. This ties with its mandate to promote the free exchange of ideas and knowledge, as demonstrated by their key role in the World Summit of Information Society. In June 2016 UNESCO launched a guide for policy-makers in developing countries on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Co-published by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), the guide also looks at the role of online learning and MOOCS in the Education 2030 Agenda and the achieving of Sustainable Development Goal 4.

(CC)

Creative Commons works on enabling the sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of

...

Creative Commons works on enabling the sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools. Although Creative Commons is best known for its licenses, it also offers other legal and technical tools that can facilitate the sharing and discovery of creative works, such as CC0. At the policy level, CC advocates in national and international fora for positive legal and regulatory changes in education, science, and culture, via its Open Policy Network (OPN).

(ICANN)

ICANN is responsible for coordinating the evolution and operation of the Domain Name System.

...

ICANN is responsible for coordinating the evolution and operation of the Domain Name System. The organisation coordinates the allocation and assignment of names in the root zone of the DNS, and the development and implementation of policies concerning the registration of second-level domain names in generic top-level domains (gTLDs). It also facilitates the coordination and evolution of the DNS root name server system. When it comes to gTLDs, ICANN concludes agreements with registry operators (for the administration of each gTLD), and accredits registrars. In the case of country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), ICANN only goes as far as (re)delegating them on the basis of some high-level guidelines.

(EFF)

As a civil society organisation working on promoting the protection of human rights in the digital space, the

...

As a civil society organisation working on promoting the protection of human rights in the digital space, the EFF has been advocating for the net neutrality principle through multiple activities. In the USA, for example, the EFF has been involved in several activities aimed at defending net neutrality and the regulation adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015. In the EU, the organisation supported the savetheInternet.eu campaign, which advocated for strong net neutrality rules to be adopted by European regulators. In 2014, the EFF launched, together with other organisations for multiple countries around the world, a global coalition for net neutrality.

Instruments

Conventions

Judgements

Resolutions & Declarations

Standards

Other Instruments

Resources

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Papers

Personal Data Storage in Russia (2015)
Comparative Analysis on National Approaches to the Liability of Internet Intermediaries for Infringement of Copyright and Related Rights (2014)
Competition in the Software Industry: the Interface between Antitrust and Intellectual Property Law (1999)

Reports

Enabling Growth and Innovation in the Digital Economy (2016)
2016 Special 301 Report (2016)
The Impact of Digital Content: Opportunities and Risks of Creating and Sharing Information Online (2016)
Content Removal Requests Report (2016)
Report of the Director General to the WIPO Assemblies (2015)

Other resources

The Twitter Rules (2016)

Processes

Click on the ( + ) sign to expand each day.

WSIS Forum 2018

12th IGF 2017

WTO Public Forum 2017

WSIS Forum 2017

IGF 2016

WTO Public Forum 2016

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.

 

The GIP Digital Watch observatory is provided by

in partnership with

and members of the GIP Steering Committee



 

GIP Digital Watch is operated by

Scroll to Top