Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives

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Copyright limitations and exceptions are fundamental for access to knowledge and thus for human and social development.

Why is IFLA advocating for copyright reform at WIPO?

Copyright laws are meant to balance the public interest in accessing information with the rights of authors, artists, and publishers. In some countries, copyright laws include provisions so libraries and archives can provide public access to the world’s knowledge—but in many countries, these exceptions apply only to resources that exist in traditional formats. Outdated copyright laws increasingly prevent libraries and archives from performing their most basic functions, simply because resources are now digital. In a number of countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America, there are no exceptions safeguarding the services of libraries and archives at all.

As rules in favor of copyright holders have increased through binding global treaties, rules for libraries and archives that enable access to information have stayed frozen. The result is a broken copyright system that:

  • Deepens inequalities in public knowledge and skills
  • Creates permanent holes in the historical record
  • Prevents information created today from being available for future generations

IFLA believes that international action is needed to ensure essential library and archive functions continue to be preserved in copyright laws.

What would an international framework look like?

IFLA is seeking an international framework that will facilitate library lending, inter library loan and document supply in digital and print forms; enable use of orphan works; ensure the ability to acquire eBooks from publishers; protect library exceptions from override by contract; among other important library activities. The Treaty Proposal on Copyright Exceptions and Limitations for Libraries and Archives was created by library and archive experts to guide Member States at the SCCR on model copyright provisions and needs to support the activities of these sectors.

What stage are the negotiations at?

Following the successful conclusion of a treaty to ensure access to works for visually impaired people (the Marrakesh Treaty) in June 2013, copyright exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives are high on the SCCR agenda. This is an important opportunity to establish the concerns of libraries and archives, and build momentum to advance SCCR discussions towards an international instrument.  

Last update: 30 September 2016

Latest News

IFLA Promotes Library and User Interests at WIPO

IFLA joined a coalition of international and national NGOs at the 33rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) on 14-18 November 2016. While IFLA works to achieve individual reforms at the national and regional level, WIPO is still the most effective place for achieving change which will allow libraries around the world to do their jobs in a digital age.

24 November 2016 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to information, Access to knowledge, Copyright

Continuing the Fight for Access to Knowledge – IFLA Returns to Geneva

Libraries in too many countries around the world lack the basic laws needed to do the best by their communities. And even where laws exist, they frequently fail to take account of the realities of the digital age. As such, the gap between what our communities expect and what libraries are able to offer is growing. The World Intellectual Property Organisation and its members can help overcome this.

13 November 2016 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to information, Access to knowledge, Copyright, WIPO

Literacy and a Love of Reading Boosted by European Judges’ eBook Decision

Libraries play a crucial role in bringing people to reading. From children’s books to the latest thrillers, they are the safety value in the copyright system that prevents access to culture being the preserve of the better off. But eLending has been surrounded by legal uncertainty for many years. Today, European judges decided that eBooks could indeed be treated as books, but further analysis of the decision will be necessary to understand its implications and limits.

10 November 2016 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to information, Copyright, E-Learning, Europe