The plan being opposed is a new broadcast treaty from UN agency the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Called the Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasts and Broadcasting Organisations, it creates a new class of IP rights designed to protect broadcasters from the theft of their TV signals.
"Creating broad new intellectual property rights in order to protect broadcast signals is misguided and unnecessary and risks serious unintended negative consequences," says a protest document signed by the technology companies and a range of other firms and public bodies. The protest is being co-ordinated by digital rights activist group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
The treaty is designed to help combat what WIPO says is a growing problem of cross-border signal piracy, where a channel shown in one country is re-broadcast in another without permission. Opponents, including other collections of interest groups such as podcasters and internet broadcasters, claim that the wording of the treaty may give broadcasters wide-ranging rights over internet content.
Dean Whitbread is the chairman of the UK Podcasters' Association. "We don't mind regulation, we just want it to be reasonable," Whitbread previously told OUT-LAW. "Podcasting and broadcasting are not the same. I don't think as podcasters we should be subject to the same legislation."
"The current treaty draft includes protection for Internet simulcasts made by traditional broadcasters and cablecasters, but otherwise excludes computer networks from its scope," says the protest document from the EFF coalition. "To the extent that the treaty continues to take a rights-based approach rather than a signal-theft-based approach, we oppose the treaty’s application to the internet."
A WIPO statement regarding the treaty said: "Updating the IP rights of broadcasters currently provided by the 1961 Rome Convention began at WIPO in 1997. A growing signal piracy problem in many parts of the world, including piracy of digitised pre-broadcast signals, has made this need more acute."
The latest draft of the treaty will be considered at a WIPO meeting in Geneva next week.