This is the joint statement by IFLA and eIFL at Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development Related to Intellectual Property (2005)

by Barbara Stratton

IFLA and the Access to Knowledge (A2K) Treaty (Electronic Information for Libraries)
4th Session, Geneva
April 14-15, 2005 

Mr Chairman, I congratulate you on your election and I wish you success in the task ahead.

I am speaking on behalf of two NGOs:

  • The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions represents the interests of libraries and information services as well as the users of such services throughout the world.
  • Electronic Information for Libraries is an international foundation which advocates for the wide availability of electronic information for libraries in developing countries and countries in transition. The global network embraces nearly 4,000 leading libraries serving millions of users in 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, former Soviet Union and the Middle East. We would like to express our gratitude that Electronic Information for Libraries has been given ad hoc accreditation to attend this important meeting.

Libraries empower citizens, facilitate good governance and the development of societies by providing access to information, knowledge and learning resources. Access to information is essential to education and research and has a direct impact on economic growth and quality of life. Our main concern therefore is copyright and related rights.

Library services have changed dramatically over the last 20 years. New information technologies offer libraries wonderful new ways of providing local access to global resources, opportunities to develop innovative services and to reach out in new ways to our communities.

Recent examples are

  • The British Library opening its treasures to the world in the Turning the Pages project;
  • Smart Cape, a digital literacy project in South Africa where more than 7,000 people each month access computers in six public libraries in a city where 60% of the residents have never used a computer;
  • A project by the National Library of Uganda and Anywhere Books which has empowered the rural population in Uganda by providing a digital bookmobile and print-on-demand centre for primary health care and other essential information.

The problem is that while there are new opportunities, users have less rights in the digital environment than in the analogue world. In particular there are

  • new layers of rights on digital information e.g. database right;
  • technical protection measures that prevent users from availing of lawful exceptions;
  • non negotiable licences that override 'fair use' provisions.

These create legal barriers and also technological blocks such as DRMs, leading to confusion and uncertainty, which discourages, and in some cases prevents, access and fair use. In this context the digital environment should not be regarded as different from the analogue. Otherwise users are penalised simply because of the mode of delivery. How does this advance the Information Society?

These issues affect libraries all over the world. But while libraries in developed countries are consulted by governments, and often also by rightholder organisations, and are actively engaged in protecting the public interest of libraries and education through their national and regional library organisations, libraries in developing countries are often not included in the same way when national IP policies or copyright and related laws are being updated.

This is partly due to a lack of awareness of the issues, lack of resources and lack of capacity within the library communities. This is not surprising as the role of the traditional librarian changes to information broker, database specialist and legal expert with the need to negotiate complex licences with publishers for access to essential electronic resources. The international library community, through organisations such as ours, are working to raise awareness and build capacity so that libraries in developing countries can become valued and knowledgeable partners in national and international policy fora such as WIPO.

We agree on the need for policy makers and legal draftspersons who are informed on the use of options and flexibilities. We therefore take a keen interest in the technical assistance provided by WIPO to developing countries. We believe that the flexibilities and public policy issues set out in Section Six of paper PCIPD/4/2 are an essential and integral part of any technical assistance programme. Discussion amongst stakeholders is crucial to achieving a fair and balanced outcome as mentioned in paragraph 46. However, we do not think that developing appropriate mechanisms for balancing the interests of rightholders and the user community via a consultation process and reliable data should be limited only to Least Developed Countries as set out in paragraph 52. Consultation with a wide range of groups such as libraries, consumers, educators, people with disabilities as well as rightholders should be facilitated in all developing countries.

We support the comment from the distinguished delegate from Pakistan for more information on the methodology and processes adopted by WIPO referred to in paper PCIPD/4/2. In order to avoid the risk of inappropriately drafted copyright legislation the professional library community must be consulted. We stand ready to offer our assistance in identifying local and regional expertise or to participate in the development of technical assistance programmes. Finally, Mr Chairman, it would be a great shame that as countries develop and their infrastructure improves, libraries in the future were to find themselves unable to provide appropriate digital services because of unbalanced copyright laws.

Thank you for your attention.

For further information contact: Barbara Stratton
Advisory Board Member, IFLA Copyright and Other Legal Matters Committee (IFLA-CLM)
Senior Adviser, Copyright
CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals
7 Ridgmount Street
London WC1E 7AE
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7255 0500
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7255 0501
Email: Barbara.Stratton AT