Friday, September 08, 2006

Understanding WIPO

WIPO headquarters in GenevaAttendees at the 6th World Law Congress in Edinburgh just got a real insight into why WIPO produces such problematic international law.

Nic Garnett, ex-head of recording industry lobby group IFPI and chief strategist for Digital Rights Management firm Media Rights Technologies, had the tough task of following a great presentation from Prof Michael Geist. Garnett was supposed to address the (some might say impossible) problem of reconciling legal protection for DRM digital locks with the copyright exceptions that protect groups such as the visually impaired. He recently authored a report for WIPO on this subject. Instead, he provided the strongest demonstration I have yet seen that WIPO must openly tender for the production of reports, rather than commissioning ex-lobbyists who just happen to have spent decades in the marbled palace that is WIPO's Geneva headquarters.

Garnett's presentation was quite remarkable for its total ignorance of the technology it was supposed to describe. He told us that "DRM technology is basically sorted out." Computer security gurus like Ed Felten, Bruce Schneier, Ross Anderson (and Microsoft researchers) disagree. Garnett told us that the "so-called" Sony-BMG rootkit fiasco had been overblown. US Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary Stewart Baker, the Texas Attorney-General and many others disagree. Garnett also told us his firm was developing technology that would stop audio being ripped (good luck getting rid of the world's microphones), and that his old firm InterTrust had patented the idea of delivering encrypted content and the necessary decryption key separately. If true, that patent is surely a prime target for EFF's patent busting project.

If this is the quality of advice that WIPO is receiving, no wonder we have ended up with the WIPO Internet treaties and the flawed process that is railroading the world into a new Broadcasting Treaty without any evidence that such a thing is required.

UPDATE: Andrew Adams wasn't impressed either.

1 comment:

Lilian Edwards said...

I wish I'd been there :-)