I'M-Europe Home Page INFO2000 Programme Home Page OII Standards and Specifications List

Workshop on Technical Mechanisms for IPR Management in the Information Society
Brussels, 10th June 1996

1. Introduction

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are a fundamental part of the regulatory system needed to establish the Information Society. The Bangemann Report (Europe and the global information society, prepared by the European Commission High-Level Group on the Information Society led by Commissioner Martin Bangemann, May 1994) states that "Technological progress now enables us to process, store, retrieve and communicate information in whatever form it may take, whether oral, written or visual, unconstrained by distance, time and volume." With the arrival of a digital world, which is characterised by multimedia information, there is a need to approach intellectual property in a new way. There is a need to re-define the various types of intellectual property, how they are to be valued, as well as how they are to be exploited. The resolution of these issues will in turn determine how IPR needs to be protected. This is one of the most important messages which has emerged from the Workshop on Technical Mechanisms for IPR Management in the Information Society, organised by the European Commission DG III/F6 on 10 June 1996 in Brussels. The Workshop is intended as a contribution to the G7 pilot project "A Global Marketplace for SMEs" (http://www.cordis.lu/esprit/src/smehome.htm), for which the European Commission is one of the three coordinators (the other coordinators are MITI of Japan and the Department of Commerce in the US).

2. IPR and IPR Management in the Context of the Information Society

IPR offers protection for the contents of exchanges which take place on networks. As the Information Society evolves, it is expected that more and more works and other protected material will be carried by the superhighway. Many have argued that it is the contents of these works, rather than the infrastructure per se, which will be the driver for the overall developments of the Information Society. The collorary is that the technical and legal protection of such works will be key to the realisation of the potential of the Information Society. Moreover, such protection must properly balance the interests of all the parties concerned, be they rights holders, manufacturers, distributors, network operators, or users. There is a strong argument that protection should not alter the existing balance of rights and obligations between rights holders and users. On the other hand, it has equally been argued that protection should not aim to restrict access to the information but rather to exploit the available technologies to maximise the openness and transparency of the (exploding) information markets.

The advent of digital technology, and in particular multimedia applications, is transforming the nature and possibilities of IPR management:

Digital technology, therefore, raises fundamental issues concerning IPR and, more specifically, copyright - the legal foundation on which the cultural/creative industries are built. These include:

3. European Commission's Green Paper on Copyright and Related Rights

Digital technology opens up the possibility of new sources of revenues which reward the intellectual production of content creators. On the other hand, the creative effort which provides a basis for investment in new services are only worthwhile and will only be made if works and other matters are adequately protected by copyright and related rights in the digital environment. Thus, in the Commission's Green Paper on Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society published in July 1995, it is advocated that the current legal environment needs to be adapted to intellectual property. Already, Community-wide harmonisation has resulted in five directives (seeNote 1). The question to be addressed, accordingly to the Green Paper, is whether the existing harmonisation is enough and what areas, if necessary, should be taken further in harmonisation. The Green Paper singles out nine areas which are considered to be of priority. These are grouped under three topic categories - general questions (applicable law, exhaustion of rights and parallel imports), specific rights (reproduction right, communication to the public, digital dissemination or transmission right, digital broadcasting right, moral rights), and questions on the exploitation of rights (acquisition and management of rights, technical systems of identification and protection). The present document will focus on the last topic category in reporting the DG III Workshop on IPR Management. It should be noted that the Commission held a hearing on 8/9 January 1996 on technical systems of identification and protection and acquisition and management of rights.

4. Workshop Proceedings

The Workshop programme comprised a series of presentations under the following headings:

The Workshop was chaired by Dominique Gonthier of DG III/F6. The welcome address and introduction were given by Rosalie Zobel, Head of Unit of DG III/F6 and the European Commission Coordinator for the G7 Pilot Project on a Global Marketplace for SMEs.

4.1 Brief Overview of EC Actions and Policies

Presentations were given by representatives of DG III (actions in the Esprit programme and standardisation policy), DG XIII (actions in the ACTS and Telematics programmes), DG XV (legal and regulatory policy), DG I (external policy) and the Commission's G7 SME pilot project team (relation of IPR protection with the G7 pilot project).

In his presentation, Dominique Gonthier suggested that potential solutions for IPR protection would emerge from an appropriate mix of technical, legal and political responses. The centrepiece for the overall strategy on multimedia object trading and IPR management is envisaged to be a series of electronic copyright management systems (ECMS) residing on digital networks, which serve both on-line and off-line rights management and clearance. Mr Gonthier offered the following guiding principles for the overall strategy:

Based on these principles, the following standards for IPR protection were identified:

Mr Gonthier proposed that the following principles be used in guiding standardisation work:

The next call for proposals in the IPR area under the Esprit Multimedia Systems domain will be launched on 15 September 1996. Details will be published on the Commission's Cordis server (http://www.cordis.lu/esprit/home.html).

A briefing paper from DG XIII sets out the guidelines for interoperable ECMS. Acknowledging that ECMS covers a wide range of media, technologies and potential users' applications, the paper highlights a number of "unifying elements" in the context of communications policy:

According to the DG XIII briefing paper, the Commission is in favour of the results of EU R&D projects being used as a basis for international standards. However, the results themselves would need to be established as recognised patents or copyrights for this to be possible. It is pointed out that the existing projects in DG XIII's ACTS (Advanced Communications Technologies) programme are already responding positive to the criteria concerning R&D and standardisation (the close link of these projects with DAVIC is cited as evidence). Progress of R&D projects and standardisation organisations should be closely monitored by consensus-building groups such as IMPRIMATUR and COPEARMS (see below).

Mr Johnston from DG XIII/B reported on the Memorandum of Understanding on multimedia access to cultural heritage, which was signed by the EU Ministers of Culture in June 1996. The goal is to provide over 10 million multimedia records by 2000, with access from "anywhere", but in particular from schools and libraries. Various working groups have been set up, dealing with standards, awareness, ownership and protection of IPR, priorities in digitisation, and liaison with libraries. Partners include museums and a range of commercial organisations in the ICT, publishing and broadcasting sectors.

Jens Gaster from DG XV/E presented on the EU regulatory activities and in particular the Green Paper on Copyright and Related Rights (see above). In addition, the Commission had recently published a Green Paper on Legal Protection of Encrypted Services and Mr Gaster suggested that it might be necessary to standardise "certain devices" with respect to IPR. The practical difficulty, however, is to ascertain who owns the right.

Peter Berz from DG I/D addressed the Commission's external policy objectives (harmonise IPR within the Internal Market and ensure a high level of IPR protection in third countries) and its instruments (international negotiations and consultations, bilaterally and multi-laterally). He reported on the TRIPS Agreement (The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IPRs) recently reached by the World Trade Organisation members within the framework of the GATT Uruguay Round, which establishes general provisions and basic principles on IPR protection, as well as provides standards concerning the availability, scope and use of IPR. The standards provisions include copyrights and related rights, trade marks, geographical indications, industrial designs, patents, layout designs (topographies) of integrated circuits, protection of undisclosed information, and provisions on the control of anti-competitive practices in contractual licenses. The TRIPS Agreement also contains detailed rules concerning domestic enforcement of these rights. The TRIPS Agreement provisions have become applicable for developed countries on 1 January 1996 and will become applicable for developing countries on 1 January 2000. The Commission is currently examining the compatibility of the legislations of the Member States with the TRIPS Agreement. Mr Berz also reported that technical assistance on IPR protection is being offered by the EU to developing countries within the framework of PHARE, TACIS, and ASEAN. Technical assistance to China, India and Vietnam is under preparation.

Ann Troye from DG III/F and the Commission's G7 SME Pilot Project team announced that the Commission would develop an inventory of legal materials relevant to SMEs. In addition, real world scenarios identifying practical trading problems and legal solutions with respect to SMEs would be produced. The issue of IPR protection without liability provisioning was raised.

4.2 Main Standardisation Initiatives

Presentations were given by AFNOR on de jure standards, by DAVIC on de facto standards, and by DG XIII on de jure and/or de facto standards.

Jean-Michel Borde of AFNOR presented on the relevant activities in the standardisation process. The key reference documents relating to IPR management are: