The Perils of Multilateralism : 34th SCCR Ends in Political Stalemate

What good is a multilateral process if it rests upon the consent on one country and that too a country which has traditionally been wary of that process? But well this country is powerful and funds a substantial portion of any international copyright norm setting that takes place within the precincts of WIPO despite not partaking in all the treaty negotiations. Therefore, it is not surprising that at the 34th SCCR, despite broad backdoor willingness amongst the majority of the delegations to push the Broadcasters Treaty (the Treaty) forward, none of the stakeholders were ready to move forward without this country’s support – which is none other than the United States of America.

And now the reason for US’ non – willingness to take a decisive stand on the Treaty : they apparently cannot comprehend the “internet related terms” (the complex text) of the Treaty. Now this is where my primary discomfort arises. If the US, with all its expertise on the internet does not understand the internet related terms of the Treaty, then who does! US’ argument that “We Don’t Understand the Internet” is preposterous to say the least. Fact remains that the US has a newly elected President who is highly skeptical of any multilateral process particularly if it comes through the aegis of the UN. As a matter of fact, the Trump administration recently announced that the US would drastically reduce its role in the UN.

Given the situation, is it worthwhile for the international community to pay deference to the US when it is crystal clear that the US will not pay heed to any UN related multilateral treaties atleast till the time Trump is in power. Should an international copyright treaty be stalled merely because the US does not has the political willingness to move ahead; even when other countries of the world are bracing themselves to move forward? This becomes all the more relevant considering that the US has been cynical of WIPO’s credibility in international copyright norm setting for being a forum more sympathetic to the needs of the developing countries and those with an anti – IP position (particularly the NGO’s).  Is it not time for the international community to move forward; lest the political stalemate continue for the next couple of years?

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