Member states of the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have made strides toward updating intellectual property (IP) standards for broadcasting.

LONDON -- Member states of the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have made strides toward updating intellectual property (IP) standards for broadcasting.

The Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), which met June 7-9, recommended that the WIPO General Assembly, the organization's top decision-making body, consider convening a diplomatic conference on protection for broadcasting organizations.

The move has become necessary because the development of digital television across the world has changed the nature of broadcasting. Among the issues at stake is the usage of digital decoders that also act as hard drives in which images can be stored. Broadcasters, as well as rights owners, fear that the signal broadcast through decoders can be used for nonintended purposes or can be pirated.

A diplomatic conference is the final step in developing an international treaty. If the General Assembly endorses the SCCR recommendation at its September 2004 session, it will be a "significant step" forward, according to WIPO.

An update of broadcasters' IP rights, which were last set during the 1961 Rome Convention on the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations, began in 1997. A growing signal-piracy problem in various parts of the world has made this increasingly important.

Delegates from 90 member states and eight intergovernmental and 55 non-governmental organizations attended the SCCR, including representatives from the music and film industries.

SCCR chair Jukka Liedes of Finland stated that the session "created a roadmap toward a new international instrument, the goal of which was to balance the real needs of broadcasters with those of other rightholders and society at large."

Differences remain on issues such as the scope of a new treaty and its beneficiaries; namely, whether only traditional broadcasters should be protected or whether protection should also extend to cablecasters and Webcasters.

The next meeting of the Committee will take place Nov. 17-19. Based on its review of the new text, that committee meeting could recommend dates for the diplomatic conference.