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 Outdated copyright laws increasingly prevent libraries and archives from performing their most basic functions, simply because resources are now digital.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. You can view the Treaty Proposal on Copyright Exceptions and Limitations for Libraries and Archives here. This proposal 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.  

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Last update: 12 May 2014

Latest News

WIPO General Assembly Fails to Draw any Conclusions on Exceptions and Limitations

The 46th General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organisation ended last night in Geneva with no agreement on a number of topics, including the future work of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR).

1 October 2014 | Advocacy, Copyright, WIPO

Libraries and archives leave international copyright discussions empty handed after countries again fail to reach agreement

Discussions regarding an international copyright instrument for libraries and archives again collapsed inconclusively at the 28th meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright & Related Rights (SCCR) in Geneva, from Monday 30 June – Friday 4 July.

14 July 2014 | Access to information, Access to knowledge, Advocacy, Copyright

Libraries and Archives write letter to the European Union

More than 90 library, archive and research institutions from countries across the European Union and internationally, representing over 650,000 information professionals, have joined together in a letter asking the European Union to engage constructively in text-based discussions at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) on copyright exceptions for libraries and archives.

16 May 2014 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Copyright