AMFA Touts Piracy Treaty; U.S. Isn’t Buying

The Intl. Register, an antipiracy measure sponsored by the World Intellectual Property Organization, will be launched this summer, but the U.S. may miss the boat.

Five countries have approved the Treaty on the Intl. Registration of Audiovisual Works, but the question of U.S. participation is now before a Senate committee and is facing some opposition.

That message was delivered to the international law forum of the L.A. County Bar Assn. Feb. 5 by the American Film Marketing Assn.

Lorin Brennan, AFMA vice-chairman/secretary, presented AFMA’s case for supporting U.S. participation in the Register Treaty. Tom Garvin of Ervin, Cohen & Jessup, who represents some independent producers and distributors, outlined opposition to the WIPO Treaty, which has come from such quarters as Universal City Studios and the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

The Feb. 5 discussion was, in part, a whistlestop in AFMA’s lobbying campaign – AFMA president Jonas Rosenfield and Brennan wing to Washington this week to persuade officials to make the U.S. a party to the treaty.

“The opposition of the MPAA can’t be ignored,” Rosenfeld said. The treaty has been endorsed by President Bush and sent to the Senate for ratification. It’s currently before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where some say it could be stalled.

According to Brennan, the Register allows the owner of an audiovisual work to register ownership with a neutral, centralized organization.

Brennan argued that the name and address requirement will discourage pirates from filing false claims. Garvin adds, “Invisibility is pirates’ greatest weapon.”

The five countries that have ratified the treaty so far are France, Austria, Mexico, Czechoslovakia and Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta). AFMA reports 15 other countries are currently considering it.

Universal published a statement opposing the WIPO Treaty in which it said, “It is clear under the current draft of the treaty and regulations that the legitimate copyright proprietor will have no effective remedy within the WIPO Registry…. Nor is there any provision for resolution of fraud claims within WIPO itself.”

Denouncing the treaty as “toothless and ineffective,” MPAA prexy Jack Valenti met reporters Feb. 6 to emphasize that the industry does not support American participation.

“We think it’s deplorable,” said Valenti. “It encourages piracy rather than diminishes it.” The MPAA has voiced concern that the registry will be a magnet for fraudulent claims by pirates.

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