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 Outdated copyright laws increasingly prevent libraries and archives from performing their most basic functions, simply because resources are now digital.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: 2 April 2015

Latest News

Treaty of Marrakesh: (Mainly) Good Omens from Europe?

Last week, the European Commission published proposals for legislation which would implement the Treaty of Marrakesh. The benefits of EU ratification could be high, potentially more than doubling the number of countries involved, and making a wealth of European language works available to some of the most vulnerable people around the world. IFLA and EBLIDA, in a joint statement, welcomed these proposals, but cautioned that more work will be needed to ensure that no new barriers to access to knowledge are created.

22 September 2016 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to knowledge, Copyright, Marrakesh Treaty

One Step Forward, No Steps Back: National Ratification Needs to Respect the Objectives of the Treaty of Marrakesh

The signing of the Treaty of Marrakesh in 2013 was a first step towards providing access to knowledge for some of the most vulnerable in society. It offers a response to the book famine that people with print disabilities have long faced. However, IFLA is concerned that when ratifying the Treaty, some countries risk introducing new barriers to access. This is completely contrary to the spirit of Marrakesh.

1 September 2016 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to information, Access to knowledge, Marrakesh Treaty