Internet copyright policy: Multistakeholder or Multilateral?

22 October 2013 - A Workshop on Multistakeholderism in Bali, Indonesia

Internet Governance Forum 2013

Workshop # 166 Report

Internet copyright policy: Multistakeholder or Multilateral?

Organizer Name 

Hamilton Stuart

Organizer Entity 


Workshop Theme 

Legal Frameworks and Cyber-crime (Spam, Cyber-security, etc.)

Consise description 


Many accept the multistakeholder model as being the appropriate framework through which Internet policy should be developed. Under this model, all stakeholders, whether from the private sector, government, academia, civil society or non-governmental organizations, participate in the policy development process.

It is well-settled that Internet-related Intellectual Property policy, which includes copyright, has become part and parcel of Internet policy. But, in contrast with Internet policy, copyright policy is not developed through multistakeholder processes. The multilateral fora of the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the World Trade Organisation, in addition to plurilateral and bilateral trade agreements, set the copyright norms that many countries are expected to follow.  

As the Internet and digitization have collided with traditional copyright regimes, copyright’s ‘square peg’ - where uses of copyrighted works require permission - is increasingly unable to cope with the Internet ‘round hole’ -  where replication of data is fundamental to the operation of the Internet. The question is who should participate in the process to deal with regulation that addresses this problem.

This workshop will pose the question of whether copyright policy for the Internet-environment should be developed in a new, multistakeholder forum, or whether the status quo of multilateral fora is the most appropriate. The workshop will take the form of an Oxford-style debate, with one team supporting the multistakeholder proposition, and the other supporting the multilateral status quo. In the Oxford style, one team advances and supports a proposition, to be refuted by the opposing team. That proposition will be:  Internet-related copyright policy should be developed under a new paradigm, consisting of a multistakeholder framework that enables all sectors on equal footing to participate.



OBJECTIVE: The objective of the FOR team is to support a 'yes' answer to the the proposition through well-reasoned arguments and supporting evidence. The objective of the AGAINST team is to refute the arguments of the FOR team and convince the audience of its position. PROCEDURE: (presuming 90 minutes, with time allocations TBC) MODERATOR (introduces the debate proposition and the speakers) MULTISTAKEHOLDER debater No. 1 (constructive speech) MULTILATERAL debater No. 1 (constructive speech) MULTISTAKEHOLDER debater No. 2 (constructive speech/rebuttal) MULTILATERAL debater No. 2 (constructive speech/rebuttal) 1st MULTISTAKEHOLDER reply (rebuttal) 1st MULTILATERAL reply (rebuttal) MODERATOR solicits comments from the HOUSE FLOOR MULTISTAKEHOLDER reply (rebuttal) MULTILATERAL reply (rebuttal) MODERATOR: Calls for vote Floor votes Discussion and Wrap up


Susan Chalmers, Internet NZ

Remote Moderator 


Have you organized workshops at previous IGFs?


Workshop format 


Workshop Transcript 


Brief substantive summary of the workshop and presentation of the main issues that were raised during the discussions 


The workshop discussed the advantages and disadvantages of multistakeholder and multilateral approaches to copyright frameworks. A panel of four experts made opening statements that touched upon the following themes and issues:


  • ·      Recognition that the workshop was addressing a timely issue, in light of the attention on multistakeholderism at the IGF.
  • ·      Some of the panelists and a number of participants stressed the importance of that debate also in light of the lack of stakeholder input into ongoing trade negotiations that include copyright such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
  • ·      That the input of varied stakeholders was an important issue for WIPO and one that they have actively sought in the processes they have set up for the negotiation of two recent treaties. For WIPO, a successful method of developing copyright frameworks will include all stakeholder groups - civil society, the technical and academic communities and the private sector, supplementing the multilateral process. This is particularly true for the negotiation of frameworks concerning digital works.
  • ·      That the beneficiaries of multilateral approaches are often interested parties rather than end users, and that the results are often political compromises. The global nature of the Internet, and the interests of diverse end users, does not necessarily balance with the direction of nation states.
  • ·      One of the advantages of multilateralism is that it facilitates a level playing field for participants – large and small participants are treated equally. One of the risks in multistakeholder negotiation is that the smaller, participants could be overwhelmed by larger bodies or Member States. As an example, in the European Broadcasting Union the Slovenian member is treated as equally important as the BBC.


Following these initial interventions the moderator posed follow-up questions designed to get the panelists to take a clearer position on which approach to copyright their sector favoured. The panelists responded:


    • ·     - That for WIPO members there was always a challenge to get consensus – and that meant that all negotiations needed to start with a consensus on the process.
      • ·     - That the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) was a good example of a mixed approach that was working. Multiple stakeholders are engaged.
      • ·     - That there were pros and cons of the current situation in copyright where a large number of different forums (national, regional, international (WIPO), WTO, free trade agreements) meant there were lots of opportunities for various stakeholders to engage – if they have the resources and expertise to do so. This meant that developing countries were naturally at a disadvantage.
      • ·     - With a large number of venues comes a large degree of policy overlap. Therefore there is a challenge in staying informed across multiple venues.
      • ·     - That the issues of copyright flexibilities (including limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, and educational purposes), open licensing and the public domain, are among the major challenges toward adapting the copyright system to the ever-changing digital environment.   
      • ·     - That multistakeholder participation is certainly an added value due to its default and inherent principles of transparency and inclusion. This is particularly important in the context of copyright were discussions are often marginalized and fragmented.
        • ·     - That in an age of Internet governance and multistakeholder participation depending on leaked texts is no longer sustainable.



Following this the discussion was opened up to the floor for the remainder of the workshop. The floor discussion covered the following areas:


  • ·      The need for a radical rethinking of processes designed to produce copyright frameworks – lessons could be learned from the corporate sector where innovative approaches are being employed to link up disparate business sectors.
  • ·      Whether or not fundamental human rights can be adequately respected in emerging copyright frameworks.
  • ·      The deficiencies in the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that have sidelined on the civil society and academic and technical community stakeholder groups, while responding to private sector concerns. Lack of transparency regarding the IP Chapter dismayed several commenters in the audience.
  • ·      The possibility of moving to a global governance model that would benefit all nations equally, as opposed to prioritizing some bigger nations over others.


Conclusions drawn from the workshop and further comments 

The workshop drew the following conclusions:



  • That the best characteristic of parties engaging in any multistakeholder/multilateral discussions is the will to move to a solution quickly. The length and time of negotiations can be very offputting, however. So it is important –as a preliminary requisite- to ascertain the real will to change from all parties and availability for compromises.
  • That the Internet is capable of supporting copyright frameworks.
  • That the policy development process is hugely important – a panelist recalled as an example the failure of SOPA/PIPA/ACTA. These laws ‘failed’ in large part because people felt they were not included in the development of the laws. Policymakers can learn a lesson from this.
  • Multistakeholder approaches can be slow and arduous, but with the hugely positive element that all parties can have a seat at the table.
  • That the recent example of the success of WIPO in creating consensus over a special treatment of copyright for blind people, will have to be now extended trying to arrive to a new and Internet-compatible definition of public domain, fair use and educational purposes. 



Reported by 

Stuart Hamilton

Estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session 

About half of the participants were women

To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment? 

It was not seen as related to the session theme and was not raised

Discussion affecting gender equality and women's empowerment 


Workshops Staticals 
Number of FEMALE participantsNumber of MALE participantsNumber of Young participantsNumber of Developing Countries ParticipantsNumber of Developed Countries ParticipantsNumber of LDCs participantsNumber of TOTAL Participants
0 0 6 0 0 0 0