Hi-tech lobbyists have scored their first significant victory in forcing the US administration to reject global copyright treaties which they claim would cripple information provider industries.
There are three copyright treaties under discussion at a Geneva conference of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, all of which would tighten up restrictions on the type of information which on-line providers could legally transmit via their services.
On Wednesday this week the chief executives of eleven leading Internet and telecommunications providers sent a public letter to President Clinton urging him to reject the proposals. On Friday it appeared that they had won the first round when it emerged that the US will not support plans to implement tighter copyright restrictions on the use of information held in on-line databases.
The proposed "sui generis" treaty will give database owners the right to copyright the facts stored within them, including information traditionally held to be in the public domain. Without the support of the US, the treaty is unlikely to be ratified before the conference ends next week.
Greg Simon, chief domestic policy adviser to vice president Al Gore, said the government felt it needed an extended period of discussion with interested parties in the US before it agreed to any binding internation regulations. ?The time may not be ripe,? he said, distancing the administration from its earlier support for the treaty. But there was no sign of concession regarding the remaining two treaties on the table, both of which seek to define more clearly who is liable for the transmission of information which breaches copyright laws. Lobbyists against the proposed new regulations claim that they would penalise the service provider that carries the infringed material as well as the party carrying out the infringement. Ratification of the three treaties requires the support of two thirds of the delegates represented at the conference. An early draft of the proposed treaty terms has already angered African, Asian and Latin American representatives. Without their support, there is no chance of the proposals being accepted in their present form.
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