Monday 27 June 2011

Performers to get new instrument, but will it still be the same old tune?

The definition of audiovisual performance will be
interesting. Belarus tennis star Victoria Azarenka's
televised grunts have been recorded at 95 decibels
At the end of last week, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) excitedly proclaimed a big breakthrough in terms of international consensus over a topic that has long been beset by sticking-points.  The title of WIPO's media release gives the game away a little -- it's "Agreement on Transfer of Rights Paves Way to Treaty on Performers' Rights".
"WIPO’s top copyright negotiating body will recommend to the September session of the General Assembly to resume a Diplomatic Conference on the Protection of Audiovisual Performances after agreement on the last outstanding issue relating to the transfer of rights. The convening of a diplomatic conference signals entry into the final phase of treaty negotiations, with the objective of concluding a treaty that would shore up the rights of performers in their audiovisual performances [words like 'final' and 'concluding' have a definite end-of-the-process sound to them, but the real end of the story is when WIPO members not only ratify the treaty but actually implement its provisions within their domestic law.  This blogger wonders what proportion of performers in the world today will still be alive when the treaty trickles down from Olympus to the mere mortals below]. 
A diplomatic conference on the protection of performers in their audiovisual performances held in 2000 made significant progress with provisional agreement on 19 of the 20 articles under negotiation. Negotiators at the time did not agree on whether or how a treaty on performers’ rights should deal with the transfer of rights from the performer to the producer and suspended the diplomatic conference.  Member states at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights,[better known as SCCRR] meeting .. were able to reach agreement ..., thereby paving the way for the conclusion of a treaty.  
The adoption of a new instrument would strengthen the position of performers in the audiovisual industry by providing a clearer legal basis for the international use of audiovisual works, both in traditional media and in digital networks.  Such an instrument would also contribute to safeguarding the rights of performers against the unauthorized use of their performances in audiovisual media, such as television, film and video [for many, the real question is how to safeguard their rights against unauthorised exploitation via the social media, but this is a problem faced on a far wider scale than at the level of audiovisual performances alone].   
Performers such as, singers, musicians, dancers and actors have enjoyed international protection for their performances since the adoption of the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (the Rome Convention) in 1961. In 1996, the adoption of WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) modernized and updated these standards to cover the rights in respect of the use of their audio performances on the Internet [this is the problem, though: it's easier to cover rights than to find a practical means for their enforcement]. The Rome Convention and the WPPT, however, grant protection mainly in relation to sound recordings of performances. ..."
This blogger feels particular sympathy for performers, especially the very many of them who cannot make a professional living through the commercialisation of their performances. He naturally cannot criticise the content of a Treaty which he has unsurprisingly yet to read.  However, he can hear a chorus of the words "Too little, too late" racing round inside his head and it will take some effort to dislodge them.

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