Letter from AmeriKat I: Happy Holidays!

On Friday, after one of the most hectic pre-holiday weeks she has endured and only three hours of sleep, the Amerikat pushed herself out of bed at 4am to peer outside at the blustery snowflakes dancing their way around the streetlights. Where on any other day the crystalline structures may have induced a feeling of warm holiday spirit, today she only saw them as the last hurdle between her and her flight home. It is safe to say that the holiday spirit, like Bob Dylan, was not in her heart – she was ‘bah-ing’ at the snow, “humbug-ing” at the novice travellers delaying the security queue ("Yes M’aam you do have to take off your solid steel belt to go through the metal detector …") and generally tutting at any reindeer sweater that she was presented with. Exhausted and crabby (should that be tabby?), she boarded her flight to Dallas with only a small hope that it would take off on time. However, a true Christmas commuter miracle occurred: the Boeing 777’s wheels were up on the dot at 10:15am, she had three spare seats to herself, and she slept for an undisturbed five hours. Bounding off the plane in a disgustingly sunny Dallas/Fort Worth, the AmeriKat was now infused with holiday cheer. Back at home and gazing at the twinkle lights glittering her house, the AmeriKat would like to wish you and yours a very happy festive season! Happy Holidays!!! [Says the IPKat, the AmeriKat has been given a week off next week on account of her good behaviour, but he expects her back for the following week, under pain of exile ... to the dog-house!]

Obama supports WIPO Treaty

In Geneva last Tuesday the Obama administration announced before a subcommittee of WIPO that it supported the WIPO Treaty for Sharing Accessible Formats of Copyright Works for Persons Who are Blind or Have other Reading Disabilities. The Treaty would lessen international copyright protection in order to enable cross-border distribution of DRM-protected digitized books that blind and visually disabled individuals can read with tools like Pac Mate and Victor Reader. Although many WIPO nations have copyright exceptions that generally permit non-profit organizations to use copyright works without permission, the permission only goes as far as the borders of each country. The Treaty would lift the border restriction and enable use outside of a country’s shores and national copyright laws.

Such a move, of course, puts the administration at odds with many US industries including software manufacturers and motion picture associations who have opposed the treaty. Where these industry players are supporting another treaty, the Anti-Counterfeiting and Trade Agreement (ACTA) which would greatly strengthen their copyright protection, the WIPO Treaty would be in effect weakening some of this protection. Comments in response to the US Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry regarding the WIPO Treaty were received on 12 November 2009. Steven Metalitz, speaking on behalf of industries including the Motion Picture Association of American and RIAA stated in their Initial Comment that, in referring to the WIPO Treaty:
“... among the strategies least likely to advance the goal of increased access by the blind and visually impaired is the path down which the draft treaty points: to begin to dismantle the existing global treaty structure of copyright law, through the adoption of an international instrument at odds with existing, longstanding and well-settled norms."
The AmeriKat suggests you read this letter for an entertaining engagement of the US industries with international copyright treaties, specifically Berne’s Three Step test – which as we all know, is not always the most harmonious of unions.

Google’s Chief Copyright Counsel, William Patry, stated in Google’s Reply to the Initial Comments:
“In reviewing the initial comments, we are concerned that some of the comments are simply stating opposition to a large agenda of limitations and exceptions. We believe this is an unproductive approach to solving what is a discrete, long-standing problem that affects a group that needs and deserves the protections of the international community.”
Despite industry concerns Justin Hughes, a Department of Commerce senior adviser, told WIPO on Tuesday that:
“We recognize that some in the international copyright community believe that any international consensus on substantive limitations and exceptions to copyright law would weaken international copyright law. The United States does not share that point of view.”
Some people may think that, for a group of US industries that may benefit from one of the most severe copyright protection agreements in modern copyright law (ACTA), it seems to be a pretty a petty harsh stance to be balking at a proposed limited exception to aid dissemination of copyright works for the benefit of the blind and visually-disabled.

For more information please see this article in Wired and this article in the Financial Times.
Letter from AmeriKat I: Happy Holidays! Letter from AmeriKat I:  Happy Holidays! Reviewed by Annsley Merelle Ward on Sunday, December 20, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. Happy Holidays, Amerikat. You are becoming pithier and more penetrating. Good take on USA its various forces at work at WIPO and re ACTA.

  2. Thank you so much, Anonymous! I hope to bring you and IPKat's readers even more pithier stories in the New Year. Happy Holidays!!


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