DRM: The World Intellectual Property Organization

by manylaughs on October 18, 2012


The story of DRM begins with the United Nations agency, WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization). WIPO was established in 1967. The agency “promote[s] the development and use of the international IP system.” (IP as used in this article refers to intellectual property, such as copyrights, patents and trademarks, not internet protocol.) One way WIPO accomplishes this is through international treaties.

In 1996, WIPO and its 185 member states adopted the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT). WCT extended international copyright protection to include computer programs (This would include video games.) and databases, and further protected the rights of authors of literary and artistic works, especially with regard to distribution, rental and communication rights.

Distribution rights pertain to digital distribution of copyrighted media, such as ebooks: “Authors of literary and artistic works shall enjoy the exclusive right of authorizing the making available to the public of the original and copies of their works through sale or other transfer of ownership.”

Communication rights addresses the rights of author with regard to their work appearing on the internet: “[A]uthors of literary and artistic works shall enjoy the exclusive right of authorizing any communication to the public of their works”.

Regarding rentals rights, the WCT specifically reserves author rental rights for computer programs, cinematographic works (i.e. movies) and “works embodied in phonograms” (Basically, music.).

The WCT required member states to “provide legal remedies against the circumvention of technological measures (e.g., encryption) used by authors in connection with the exercise of their rights and against the removal or altering of information, such as certain data that identify works or their authors, necessary for the management (e.g., licensing, collecting and distribution of royalties) of their rights (“rights management information”).”

The treaty summary is here and the entire treaty is available for reading here.

Also passed in 1996 was the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). The WPPT details the rights of performers (singers, musicians, etc.) and producers of phonograms (Again, primarily music, but any auditory performance.). This treaty grants to performers the right of reproduction, distribution, rental and the “right of making available”. The right of making available is similar to the communication rights detailed in the WCT, dealing primarily with a performers rights pertaining to posting their work on the internet.

The WCT and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty served as the impetus behind of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). While the treaties required member states to honor the terms of the treaties, it left it up to those member states to implement the terms of the treaties in accordance with each state’s legal framework.

In the United States, Congress enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to comply with these two treaties. But the DMCA went further than was required by the terms of these treaties and its passage marked the beginning of a significant digital rights management effort in the US, bringing the rights of  consumers head-to-head with corporate efforts to limit those rights.

[Next DRM post: DMCA]

[This post was updated on October 18 to include information on the WPPT.]


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