Copyright in the Digital Environment: Restoring the Balance

How to Cite

Gurry, F. (2012). Copyright in the Digital Environment: Restoring the Balance: 24th Annual Horace S. Manges Lecture, April 6, 2011. The Columbia Journal of Law & The Arts, 35(1), 1–15.


The topic that I’ve chosen for tonight is a rather large one: the impact of the digital environment on copyright. And, in one sense, I think that one can say that we have talked ceaselessly about this topic since the widespread adoption of the Internet and digital technology. But in another sense, I don’t think we can speak about it enough.

The current international copyright agenda deals with the remnants of what was a very promising—and, for an international organization, a very early—start in tackling or in addressing this question in the holding of the 1996 Diplomatic Conference, which led to the two so-called WIPO Internet Treaties: the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

Since that time, what we are now dealing with at the international level is the remnants. We are still trying to accord audiovisual performances the treatment that is given to musical performances in the 1996 Treaty. And, we are still trying to update broadcasters’ rights, the third subject matter of the Rome Convention in 2011. The rest of the agenda is concerned with exceptions and limitations, which is highly important subject matter, but I sometimes think that if we don’t address the elephant in the room—the impact of the digital environment on copyright—then there will be nothing to limit and there will be nothing from which to make an exception.