IMR meets with IP Authorities

On September 22 and 23, 2011, a symposium for Intellectual Property Authorities was held in WIPO, on “Services for Access to Knowledge in Promoting Innovation and Creativity”. The third panel of this meeting dealt with Copyright infrastructure, intending to analyze whether copyright infrastructure is needed to facilitate the licensing of copyrighted works in the digital age, and suggesting that the IMR might provide such infrastructure. The lead discussant was Mr. Clarke, Assistant Director General of WIPO, and the panelists were:

Ms. Dora Salamba-Makwinja, Chief Executive Officer, Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA), Lilongwe
Mr. Azhibai Kalmamatov, Director, State Intellectual Property Service of the Kyrgyz Republic
Mr. Bendik Hofseth, Chair, International Music Registry (IMR), Oslo

Mrs. Dora Salamba-Makwinja made a quick presentation about the changes brought by the digital revolution, as a facilitator for a better access of copyright works and their large dissemination. She stated that although authors are losing the control of their work, the digital revolution also represents an opportunity, as new alternative ways of licensing are emerging. She then moved on to introduce the rationale of the IMR, explaining that it would facilitate licensing by third parties, which is currently processed on a case-by-case and territory-by-territory basis. Another important advantage is that IMR would represent a source of accurate and authentic information, and ensure a transparent distribution of the content, which would actually decrease the administrative costs and eventually increase the remuneration of the authors. This would surely be beneficial for rightholders, in particular regarding the fact that they would retain control on the data they wish to remain confidential. Mrs. Salamba-Makwinja added that IMR would work on the basis of a voluntary contribution, and this initiative does not intend to bring conflicts with the existing initiatives, such as CISNET advanced by CISAC, or the GRD. She concluded by stating that IMR is one of the possible ways to ensure a more open and transparent approach to licensing, and that she hoped that this initiative would help decrease piracy.

Mr. Kalmamatov presented the situation on intellectual property legislation in the Kyrgyz Republic. 14 laws on Intellectual Property have been passed, the Republic is part of 23 international agreements, and the Parliament has recently amended a law on copyright which would fulfill the commitments of the State in ratifying WIPO agreements. He stated however that the management of copyright was very difficult, and that the only department dealing with copyright registration and administration is the patent office. He reported that authors in Kyrgyz Republic are pushing for the creation of a body to manage their rights, as royalties are currently managed manually. Mr. Kalmamatov concluded by stating that the IMR initiative could therefore provide useful tools for a state such as Kyrgyz Republic, which is struggling with the implementation of an effective body for management of rights. He added that experts had attended the seminars and workshops on the IMR, and that they were spreading their knowledge about this initiative within the state.

Mr. Bendik Hofseth outlined the turmoil and the dramatic changes the music industry is going through, stating that although a rise in digital sales is expected, online exploitation of music still has fundamental challenges lying ahead. One of the main issues is that it is not possible to apply yesterday’s business models to today’s technologies, insofar as new models such as the cloud locker are now appearing. He stated that 60 million tracks of music are circulating today in the online sphere, but that very few of them have metadata attached to them. Therefore, the issue lies in the lack of tools to allow identification of the author, and in the absence of standards, protocols or common practices in this area. Obtaining lawful licenses consequently proves to be difficult. Another downside of lack of identification is that CMOs and other licensors cannot distribute correctly and individually the musical works, resulting in a problem of legitimization of their institutional standing amongst their members. Mr. Bendik put an emphasis on the fact that the relevant information on the music, its stakeholders and rightholders is often available, but in separate databases. He gave the example of the authors’ CMOS who know who the composer, the lyricist and the publishers of a musical work are, but know nothing about the producers or the musicians. IMR could therefore help in trying to tie databases together and synchronize them. Mr. Bendik added that a scoping study was being carried out, and that the preliminary findings showed that there is a strong need for an IMR, in particular in the scope of the UN Developing Agenda (as repertoires from developing countries would be under the same terms as those from developed countries). He concluded by stating also that IMR could be helpful in addressing piracy, and by thanking WIPO for driving the process with perseverance and diligence.

Questions of the audience were primarily focused on the issue of enforcement of copyright. The view was indeed expressed that the enforcement component must be effective, and that the lack of “ legal machines” renders the combat against piracy ineffective. Mr. Clarke clarified on this point that the IMR is merely a part of the solution, and that other steps still need to be taken, such as the adaptation of business models, cultural change, raising young people’s awareness on the dangers of piracy. However, as Mr. David Uwemedimo from WIPO stated, the IMR may help address the issue of piracy, in that it allows the identification of the author, and will facilitate the licensing process by introducing simplicity in the online copyright world. Mr. Nick Ashton, Representative of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, also pointed out that large online music services, such as YouTube, strongly encourage initiatives like the IMR, and WIPOCOS, as they are currently facing a deadlock. Indeed, they cannot distribute the revenues to the copyright owners that they cannot identify.

Mr. Clarke concluded the discussion by putting forward that the question of piracy has two dimensions, the first one being the small user and thief, and the second being the online music industry service providers, wishing to pay for the music but not knowing who the rightowners are. Mr. Victor Vazquez, from WIPO, also pointed out that WIPO is organizing a Conference on Copyright Documentation and Infrastructure on October 13th and 14th, in which the IMR and other database initiatives will be discussed.

International Music Registry