The Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances signed today in its namesake city at the World Intellectual Property Organization’s diplomatic conference was a happy event on the content side. Representatives of the Screen Actor’s Guild and the Motion Picture Association of America had people there and their websites feature glowing praises for all involved. The treaty still must be ratified by the Senate, and I’m waiting to see what the biggest players in technology will say.
The ratification process should focus on what further changes in US copyright law are needed to implement the treaty. Many key sections are left to individual nations’ laws to fill in the blanks and provide for how the new rights can be enforced. The technology side of copyright concerns can be expected to seek the least burdensome approach. Think of the vast collection of audiovisual works in YouTube alone. More takedown demands is not what they’re looking for.
An important theme that runs through the treaty is protection of performer’s rights. Their authorizations will be required. For the most part that will probably mean television and motion picture actors who will contractually authorize everything the producers do, but it probably also includes everyone who stands in front of a camera for an uploaded video. If the person posting the video is not the performer, perhaps authorizations will be needed there too.
Also interesting is the extension of moral rights protection to audiovisual works. Current US copyright law protects “works of visual art.” These are works of fine art like paintings, sculptures, and prints in editions of 200 or less. The creators of the works are entitled to have the work credited to them, and prevent the improper use of his or her name with a distorted, mutilated, or modified version of the work. The treaty recognizes actor’s performances as entitled to the same kinds of protections.
Ratification of the treaty and legislation implementing it may go quickly, or take years. In the meantime, it’s nice to see a honeymoon among representatives of the creative world.