Andy Oram examines the new concept of a “webcaster’s right” that major Web portals are trying to introduce through a World Intellectual Property Organization treaty. The treaty would allow Web sites to control the dissemination of content they put up. Using the failed database protection laws as an example, and in the context of the carrier’s desire to create a tiered Internet, Andy analyzes this new threat to the public domain.
What would a webcasters right mean? It would mean you couldn’t retransmit content put up by someone else on the web without permission. The proposal tries to indicate that the restriction covers only images and sound, but it’s not clear that a line can be drawn between such content and other things, including text. At any rate, the idea of extending the broadcasters right to the Web is bizarre and fundamentally out of sync with how the Web works. The whole basis of the Web is making links; people don’t normally copy and retransmit material.
As usual, Andy’s perspective is insightful and inspiring. He’s included the full text of a letter he wrote to the U.S. delegates to WIPO on the webcasters right. Make sure and educate yourself on this important and little-known issue. Andy’s article is a great place to start.