Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Chris Watson -- Commercial Rights v Communications Rights: Walking The Tightrope

Friday, March 12, 2010

12 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

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"Commercial Rights v Communications Rights: Walking The Tightrope," with Chris Watson, partner and head of Telecoms team, CMS Cameron McKenna. 

In the digital age, where universal access and telecommunications infrastructure underpin technological and economic progress, Chris Watson examines how the Information Society balances the public interest in the freest possible communications with the protection of IP rights and investment.

While the Internet has revolutionized and immeasurably improved access to information and content, the sheer volume and variety of communications present enormous challenges. Intellectual Property rights are fundamental commercial investments, yet they are generally protected only at a national level. Rights holders seeking to protect their products, brands and reputations, in particular those in the content industries, are finding traditional enforcement methods outdated and are swamped by the volume and geographic scale of potential infringements occurring online. By testing the boundaries of copyright and trade mark law and by lobbying governments for powerful measures of general application they are seeking to protect their investments. Meanwhile intermediaries, such as internet service providers, and enablers, such as search engines and online market places, find themselves between a rock and a hard place, wishing neither to endorse infringements nor to police the Internet and suffer the costs, potential liability and reputational damage arising. With courts and consumer groups keen to protect individuals' fundamental freedoms and human rights, legislative bodies and national courts find themselves trying to resolve tensions that are fundamental to the values of society and the way we use the web. 

Chris Watson considers recent developments and views from around the world including global plans to prevent peer to peer file-sharing, references to the European Court of Justice and recent court actions against Google, e-bay and internet service providers in several jurisdictions. 

Location: Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street.

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