The World's Biggest Copy Machine. (Legal Issues)

By Ardito, Stephanie C. | Information Today, March 2003 | Go to article overview

The World's Biggest Copy Machine. (Legal Issues)


Ardito, Stephanie C., Information Today


The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was formed in 1893 as the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI). It's now a specialized agency within the United Nations. WIPO's mission is to help protect intellectual property worldwide.

Although one of the group's major tasks is to administer nearly 25 treaties (including the Paris and Berne conventions), it also takes initiatives in drafting reports about important topics. It's in this regard that WIPO recognized an "urgent" need to address technological changes brought about by the Internet.

Consequently, in December 2002, WIPO published "Intellectual Property on the Internet: A Survey of Issues" (http://ecommerce.wipo.int/survey/html/index.html). As the report is more than 200 pages long, it's not surprising that it has generated little media attention. This is a shame, since the document is quite readable and contains a wealth of information that should be of interest to many in our industry--not only those who monitor intellectual property issues, but those who are responsible for marketing electronic services as well.

WIPO's Findings

In describing the Internet as "the world's biggest copy machine," WIPO is straightforward about the purpose of its report: to present issues and developments as "experienced and debated in industry and among consumers." The document is not intended "to predict what the future will hold or prescribe what it should look like." Although it offers no remarkable insights or solutions to the many copyright dilemmas we face every day, the report is an outstanding reference source for current and reputable information on international legal precedents. In addition, it provides extensive data on Internet usage and commerce. A sampling of its statistics includes the following:

* Ten percent of the world's population (605 million users) is online. By 2005, the user population is forecast to be 1 billion.

* At the end of 2001,214 countries were connected to the Internet, compared to 10 countries connected in the early 1990s.

* In 2002, worldwide commercial transactions were valued at $1.9 trillion, with $6 trillion forecast for 2004. Despite the high value, commercial transactions represent just 0.4 to 3.8 percent of total Internet usage. This is mainly because consumers are concerned about the protection of their personal data and the security of their transactions.

* The biggest purchases are for computer goods, clothing, and digital products (such as music, computer software, and books).

* In the U.S., the economic value of the copyright industry is estimated to be $91.2 billion (primarily motion pictures, music, and television). This represents 5.24 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

* In September 2002, the number of visitors to The New York Times' Web site (1.28 million daily) for the first time exceeded its weekday newspaper circulation (1.2 million daily).

* More than 40,000 Web logs are available on the Internet.

You will not be surprised if you're interested in issues surrounding domain names (the WIPO Center is the leading dispute-resolution arbitrator for cyber-squatting cases), trademarks, patents, unfair competition/marketing practices, technological protection measures, online management and licensing systems (including digital rights management), linking and framing, and the digital divide. Lengthy sections provide overviews of the problems, the treaties involved in settling disputes, and recent legal cases, all supported by substantial lists of references. …

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