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Speech by
Prof. Dr. Edzard Schmidt-Jortzig (F.D.P.),
Federal Minister of Justice,
on "Intellectual Property Rights"
at the Ministerial Conference "Global Information Networks"
Bonn, 7 July 1997


Ladies and gentlemen:

"The future belongs to the new media" is a sentence one hears frequently, but it is a sentence which belongs to the past.

The new media belong not to the future, but to the present.


The new media are not only bringing an unprecedented wave of innovation, but also an unprecedented wave of globalisaiion.

Both of these have to be dealt with in a way that preserves the balance of a triad of interests on which intellectual property rights depend:

the interest of the authors to dispose of their works and participate commercially in their exploitation; the interest of the exploiter in commercial success; and the interest of society in innovation, information and intellectual enrichment.

1. Dealing with innovation means ensuring that the protection of patents, trademarks and authors' rights is maintained, even in the context of the new technologies.

In the case of patents and trademarks, there is relatively little need for reform.

The need is greatest in the case of copyright, because the digital world particularly lends itself to using and processing works protected by copyright - whether they take the form of texts, sound or images.

Here, it is vital not to lose authors' rights amidst the vast array of uses.

a. We took important steps in this direction at the end of last year in Geneva by concluding two WIPO treaties.

One of the issues regulated by the Copyright Treaty is that of public reproduction in interactive network communications.

The Performances and Phonograms Treaty gives the performing artists and phonogram manufacturers the exclusive right to digital transmission in the field of interactive electronic music.

Both treaties also contain rules on the provision of technical protection.

We should therefore all try and ensure that at least 30 countries ratify the treaties as soon as possible so that they can enter into force.

b. In September, WIPO in Geneva will again be addressing database protection sui generis and the rights of performing artists with regard to their audio-visual performances.

The European Union has led the way on the protection of databases with its corresponding directive.

In Germany, the necessary changes to the Copyright Act will be entering into force soon.

However, providing protection for databases beyond Europe would establish a good basis for additional commercial use.

I would therefore like to appeal to everyone involved to support a world- wide arrangement at WIPO level in this area as well.

That is the only way to deal properly with the wave of innovation deriving from the new communications technologies.

2. Dealing with the wave of globalisation means ensuring that research, innovation and intellectual activity continue to pay off in global markets.

There are two new main problems here:

First: global networks present new dangers that people will gain unentitled access to know-how.

The modern industrial spy sits at his PC surfing and hacking his way into others' data networks or intercepting electronic mail.

It is because sensitive data are especially at risk when they are transmitted via the network that it is important for businesses in particular to have their intellectual property protected by an unrestricted use of encryption procedures.

Also, global networks create new opportunities for "product pirates" to damage intellectual property.

From their "lairs", they can offer imitated brand-name products via virtual shopping malls or copy and supply works under copyright via the Internet.

It is now more necessary than ever before for patents, trademarks and copyright to provide effective protection at international level.

Such rights can now be violated via the global networks from virtually any isolated spot in the world.

Only if the relevant international agreements under the WIPO umbrella meet with widespread international acceptance will it be possible for the balance between the interests of authors, exploiters and society to be maintained in future.

Extending the area covered by the existing agreements is therefore just as important as establishing new agreements to deal with innovation.

It will only be possible to protect intellectual property effectively on the global information networks if we succeed in both areas.


Ladies and gentlemen:

The global networks are bringing our world closer together.

By making it possible for information to flow unimpeded by national borders, they are offering major opportunities for commercial cooperation, cultural exchanges and the consolidation of democracy.

But they are also forcing us to create internationally valid legal standards, both in the field of intellectual property rights and elsewhere.

Inevitably, those countries which are furthest along the technological road will have to set the pace.

I regard this too as a great opportunity for a new quality of regional and international cooperation.

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