The WIPO Copyright Treaty: A Transition to the Future of International Copyright Lawmaking?

16 Pages Posted: 9 May 2010

Date Written: January 21, 2010


This contribution to a symposium on the tenth anniversary of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (now published with a 2010 postscript) suggests that the WIPO Copyright Treaty represented a watershed moment in international copyright law for two reasons. First, it was in the 1996 Diplomatic Conference that one begins to see the most widespread explicit discussion of the concept of “balance” being integral to international instruments. Second, the WCT was a watershed moment for international copyright law in that the process that led up to the conclusion of the two internet treaties (both the WCT and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty) and the conduct of the diplomatic conference at which they were considered were quite different in several respects from that which had been seen heretofore. In particular, on some of the issues addressed in the treaty, the contracting states relied much less extensively on prior national experimentation than had been the norm in prior copyright agreements. Moreover, the 1996 Diplomatic Conference was populated by a wide range of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in numbers never before seen at international copyright events. And (perhaps because of these first two changes in process), the debates that took place nationally and internationally were substantially assimilated. These features of the process that led to the WCT remain with us today. This brief essay addresses both the concept of balance and these changes to the lawmaking process. On the question of balance, I suggest that balance is a much more complicated concept than we assume. Even in the domestic environment, the phrase is used somewhat too glibly. But in the international context, it becomes even more complex. In particular, we need to take into account the multidimensional nature of balance (or what I call the various vectors of balance) before we try to insert internal substantive balance directly into treaty instruments. This is true whether we are talking about new authors’ rights or the development of users’ rights. I am also concerned by some aspects of the changes that occurred to the lawmaking process in 1996. In particular, there is often a failure to appreciate fully the difference between national lawmaking and international lawmaking. To be sure, in a dynamic, integrated lawmaking process, one is a constituent part of the other; that is, national lawmaking contributes to international lawmaking and vice versa. But these processes involve distinct institutions with different functions, and with different democratic and political structures; those urging further reform of international copyright law need to be aware of these differences.

Keywords: copyright, WIPO Copyright Treaty, Berne Convention, TRIPS, balance, users rights, ACTA

JEL Classification: K11, K13, K33

Suggested Citation

Dinwoodie, Graeme B., The WIPO Copyright Treaty: A Transition to the Future of International Copyright Lawmaking? (January 21, 2010). Case Western Reserve Law Review, Vol. 57, No. 4, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Graeme B. Dinwoodie (Contact Author)

Chicago-Kent College of Law ( email )

565 West Adams St.
Chicago, IL 60661
United States

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