In May 2022, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s Standing Committee on Copyright Relations will meet for the 42nd time – and for the first time in person in the two years since the pandemic began.

IFLA is looking forward to speaking to libraries’ experiences and advocating for strong limitations and exceptions to support their work delivering services and providing access to content.

The meeting will include sessions related to the “impact on the cultural, creative and educational ecosystem, including copyright, related rights, and limitations and exceptions” that focus on the experiences of rightsholders, and cultural and educational institutions.

This promises to be a crucial discussion. While digital licensing, approaches to exceptions for digital content, and related topics have been debated and discussed for some time, these topics moved front and centre once digital access was the primary means by which many libraries offered their services during COVID-related closures.

During this time, libraries often had to contend with provisional legal guidance and copyright regulations designed primarily for on-site access. Libraries’ lending availability was hindered by Digital Rights Management software, limited eBook availability, and a lack of clear digitization guidance for content that was physically locked in the stacks.

Based on research to be published on World IP Day (26 April), IFLA will be calling for clearly defined legal protections to help libraries continue to provide services in the digital era.

Also on the agenda will be a proposal from the African Group of Member States for an action plan on exceptions and limitations going forwards.

This is a positive document, representing a pragmatic and helpful set of next steps for the Committee that will not only advance towards its long-term mandate to develop legal instruments around exceptions and limitations, but also deliver progress in the shorter term.

IFLA will be encouraging Member States to support this proposal, in order to ensure that SCCR starts to deliver for libraries and their communities. Without an agreed action plan, the Committee risks continuing to fail to realise its potential to provide support and guidance to governments and stakeholders alike.

Beyond this proposal, there are ongoing discussions about digital content markets, resale rights, and a proposed study on Public Lending Right (PLR). The latter is controversial, taking a deeply unbalanced approach to the merits of PLR as opposed to other means of supporting writing. The Committee will also return once again to the proposed treaty on the rights of broadcasters, where IFLA will join with others in calling for this not to create any new burdens for libraries working with relevant materials.

We are looking forward to supporting and presenting libraries’ positions at WIPO, and to sharing what happens!

You can follow the meeting live via WIPO’s webcast facility.