Copyright Issues for Libraries

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Copyright limitations and exceptions provide balance between users and creators of protected works.


Copyright norms grant legal protection for authors and creators to exploit their works, while providing society access to works and thus, encourage innovation, research and further creativity. Legal flexibilities in copyright, known as limitations and exceptions, provide balance in a copyright system between users and creators of protected works.

Libraries need international copyright norms, together with limitations and exceptions, to fulfill their mission – to provide access to knowledge and preserve our cultural and scientific heritage (Access and Preservation). Limitations and exceptions are fundamental for human, social and economic development.

WIPO study shows that libraries and archives work under a patchwork of provisions that differ in scope and effect from country to country. Established in the print era, these provisions increasingly fail to address the legal and policy challenges of the global digital environment.

The legal framework of copyright limitations and exceptions need to be updated to enable libraries to provide users with both historical and new services. Licences are not a cure-all solution either - many resources are not available, others only at a price which excludes a large share of the world's population from access.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), is currently debating limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, educational activities, and persons with disabilities.

Last update: 12 May 2016