Ramifications of the WIPO Treaty

by IP Blawg on September 20, 2012

Last month’s signing of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Treaty in Beijing heralded a new beginning for big screen performers. The elation was evident from the various sentiments that emanated from Roberta Reardon and Ken Howard. The two co-presidents of the Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) said that the treaty was a long time coming.

Both hoped that it would protect actors through compensations for their work. Similar sentiments oozed from Agnete Haaland, the president of Federation of International Actors (FIA). Haaland expressed optimism that the treaty, signed in Beijing, would rightly reward actors for their on-screen efforts.

The signing of the WIPO Beijing treaty aptly changes the world of copyright violations. For actors, it is the best thing to have professionally occurred to them. Previously, actors whose films gained sales in international markets could not get a penny from these sales. This was because they had no legal mandate to ask for payments. The money that accrued from the sales usually went to the producers of the films.

Before the signing of the treaty, actors could not do anything in case their reputation took a beating in foreign countries. This allowed many people to easily manipulate their films without fear of any reprisals. Thankfully, this is set to change under the new treaty. Generally, they had to contend with the ills of digital technology. Digital technology has simplified the process of downloading films at no financial cost. This had the effect of denying actors a considerable margin of their returns.

China and Russia: The homes of copyright infringements

Russia and China have always faced criticisms from the European Union (EU) and the U.S for their lax attitude towards copyright violations. This is despite the fact that both nations have laws that cater for copyright piracy. China, for instance, has established itself as a hub of the latest Hollywood blockbusters.

The funny thing is that these movies come out before or right after their official releases in the U.S. Pirated DVDs of these movies are a common sight in Beijing where they retail for an average of $1. As a result, the movie industry has lost over $100 million annually.

China’s almost-morbid intellectual laws date back to 2009 when the U.S trade representatives uncovered glaring deficiencies. As such, movies that did not meet the Asian nation’s content review standards merited no prosecution in cases of violation.

The laws also allowed criminal prosecution for copyright violations only if they surpassed certain limits. These limits normally hinged on volumes or value of the copyrighted materials.

The way forward

The WIPO Beijing treaty has taken close to ten years to come to fruition. Last year, the EU and the U.S penned an agreement that set the stage for its conclusion. Now that the treaty has become a reality, the next phase is its implementation. According to WIPO chairman Francis Gurry, the onus is on individual states to enforce the provisions.

However, he concedes that this task may meet resistance in some countries. It will also take some time for the 185-member state of the UN body to ratify the pact. Perhaps the response of the Chinese gives cause for hope.

Liu Qi, a member of the communist party in china expressed his country’s respect for Intellectual Property (IP). Qi said that china would use this chance to position itself as a sturdy center of IP. This is the kind of news movies stars like Javier Bardem and Merryl Steep would have loved to hear.

Brenda Panin is a contributor to several blogs. She writes about ISP and Telecommunications Law, IT Law, Commercial Law and Intellectual Property Law. She is currently a web content writer for copyright lawyer.

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