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 Outdated copyright laws increasingly prevent libraries and archives from performing their most basic functions, simply because resources are now digital.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

What’s the Deal? Trade, Copyright and Libraries Discussed at WTO Public Forum

Despite political criticisms, trade-based globalisation is an unavoidable part of modern economies and society. As countries have sought to facilitate exchanges of goods and services, they have signed deals that have far reaching effects on national legislation. IFLA held a panel at this year's WTO Public Forum to explore the impacts on libraries, and whether recent trends give grounds for optimism or pessimism.

7 October 2016 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to knowledge, World Trade Organization (WTO), trade agreements

A Better Deal for Libraries and their Users: IFLA Addresses World Intellectual Property Meeting

IFLA took the floor three times during the General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva, calling on ministers, heads of intellectual property offices and diplomats to agree on copyright reforms that will allow libraries to do the best by their users.

7 October 2016 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to knowledge, Copyright, WIPO GA, WIPO

A Better Balance is Possible – Looking to the Future at WIPO

Starting tomorrow, the Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organisation will meet together in Geneva. For IFLA, highlights will include discussions on future work on limitations on copyright for libraries, Ms Sylvie Forbin's first major event as Deputy Director General, Copyright and Creative Industries, and a celebration of the entry into force of the Treaty of Marrakesh. The latter shows that WIPO discussions can lead to results that offer wider access to knowledge, with dividends for growth, equality, human rights and well-being.

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