Andy Oram on the Problem with Webcasting

Andy Oram has an article up on on the O’Reilly site about the potential effects of the webcasting treaty.

There’s a new restriction on content waiting in the wings–a “webcaster’s right” that allows websites to control the dissemination of content they put up. With this new privilege, they’ll be able to prevent retransmission even if the copyright on that content is owned by somebody else–even, in fact, if that content was in the public domain.

Oram notes the importance of access to archival footage to public discourse:

The harm this could do to public discourse hit me just recently when I attended a forum on wiretapping, where several TV clips of George W. Bush’s speeches were aired. The value of seeing these excerpts was incalculable. But if we had to adhere to the broadcasters’ treaty, showing them would have been illegal. By copyright law, showing them in a non-profit educational setting was probably fair use–but it’s not clear how any concept of fair use would apply to a broadcasters’ treaty.

Because it’s often impossible to contact the original copyright holder, the right to retransmit broadcasts is essential to public discourse. Copyright is motivated by the laudable goal of encouraging authors’ creativity and productivity–but what value do broadcasters add? There’s precious little creativity involved in sending out a broadcast. Nevertheless, broadcasters are claiming an extra layer of rights–which adds an extra barrier to reuse.

Oram goes on to include his comments to WIPO, and a good selection of links to other resources.

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Online Video and the Future of Broadcasting