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 Outdated copyright laws increasingly prevent libraries and archives from performing their most basic functions, simply because resources are now digital.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

Reform Copyright, Drive Development: IFLA Speaks for Libraries in Geneva

IFLA attended the 49th General Assemblies of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), from 2-5 October 2017, taking the opportunity to underline the need for action to help libraries guarantee meaningful access to information for their users.

10 October 2017 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to information, Access to knowledge, Copyright, Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives, Marrakesh Treaty

Getting It Right: At Second Marrakesh Assembly, IFLA Launches Guide to Implementing the Treaty in Europe

Following agreement in the European Union on legislation to implement the Marrakesh Treaty, Member States now have a year to comply. By 11 October 2018, all 28 countries need to give people who are blind, have visual impairments or other print disabilities, as well as the institutions that serve them, the possibility to make and share accessible format copies of books. A new Guide makes recommendations on how best to do this.

5 October 2017 | Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities, Access to information, Access to knowledge, Europe, Marrakesh Treaty

IFLA represents libraries at the World Intellectual Property Organisation's Forty-Ninth General Assembly

From the 2nd to the 7th October, IFLA attends the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s (WIPO) Fifty-Seventh General Assembly at its headquarters, in Geneva. Libraries have been following the work at WIPO for many years, especially at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related rights (SCCR), whose agenda currently focuses, among other topics, on exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives.

2 October 2017