The aim of this Legal & Policy Focus is to further the understanding, in particular among legal practitioners of broadcasting organisations and other lawyers dealing with copyright issues, of the “neighbouring” (or “related”) right that broadcasting organisations enjoy under copyright laws in Europe. Simply defined, broadcasters’ neighbouring rights protect the signals transmitted by broadcasters that carry programme content for reception by the public.
A main impetus for providing this overview is the current debate at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva for a new international treaty granting modern, or at least updated, protection to the neighbouring rights of broadcasting organisations. This discussion has been going on for over 20 years, and now seems to be entering a decisive phase. Ironically, and even more remarkably, the longer this topic is discussed, the more apparent it becomes that in the broader international context, the nature and underlying rationale of this specific right is often not sufficiently known or selfevident.
A certain amount of confusion occurs quite frequently with respect to the distinction between the subject of the neighbouring right, namely the broadcast as such (i.e. the programme output), and the actual programme content, which may or may not be protected independently. Correctly distinguishing between the two is crucial to understanding not only the objective and scope of the legal protection but also its effect.
Whilst the subject of neighbouring rights is extremely complex and potentially lengthy, this document provides a short easy-to-read overview, focusing on why the proposed WIPO Treaty would provide a crucial protection for broadcasters in the digital media age.
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