Strategic patience in Geneva

THERE WERE interesting developments for authors at the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva in the first week of May. Its Standing Committee on Copyright and related Rights was given a preview of a report on the future of copyright and authors' rights in the digital age.

Professor Pierre Sirinelli called repeatedly for authors - supporting whose work was the entire point of authors' rights in the beginning - to be returned to the centre of authors' rights and copyright law and WIPO's work.

As the simultaneous translation had it, "if we lose sight of the authors, the most important people in the construction of copyright, we might as well say that they play only one role: to announce the date of their death" to determine when corporate copyright expires.

Sirinelli mentioned the problem that internet companies are immune to action over their used of content. "They announce: 'I don't have to discuss this with you because I am not responsible, but because I'm such a good person I'll discuss, it but because I am not responsible I will offer you a pittance'."

He discussed the need for transparency in contracts, and to look at the "value chain" from companies' income to authors' pockets. That last point received strong support from the European Union, whose Commission is promoting measures demanding transparency in a Draft Directive (see the February Freelance). Nearly 1000 amendments to the draft have been put down in the European Parliament: we're wading through them.