IFLA was in Geneva from 28 May to 1 June to advocate for better exceptions and limitations to copyright for libraries. The occasion was the 36th meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). This SCCR meets twice a year for a week of discussions on copyright. 

In the wider world, librarians are working hard to keep up with technological changes, in order to be able to fulfil their public interest mission. Legal frameworks, however, have not adapted to the digital age in many countries.

As research, education and cultural heritage become more and more global, libraries can no longer work in silos. Cross-border exchange of works needs an adequate legal framework. WIPO is the main international forum with the potential to contribute to solve this.

IFLA NGO delegation at SCCR36

On the Agenda

Exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives shared a packed agenda with the protection of broadcast organisations, exceptions and limitations for educational and research institutions, a proposal for analysis of copyright in the digital environment, a proposal on the Resale “royalty” right (or droit de suite) and a proposal to strengthen the Protection of Theatre Directors’ Rights.

Nonetheless, a full day was spent on discussions around libraries, archives and museums. We are happy to say that we achieved the goals we had for the week.

The very good outcome for libraries would not have been possible without work of many IFLA members who urged their representatives to give a positive turn to the discussions at SCCR. We are also grateful to the many non-governmental organisations which collaborated with IFLA during the session.

The Action Plans

During the previous SCCR meeting, the committee Chair, Daren Tang from Singapore, together with the Secretariat, had introduced the idea of a draft action plan on exceptions and limitations to guide the work of the committee on the topic of exceptions and limitations.

This plan was the main subject of discussion on libraries this time around. Member states engaged in fruitful discussions and adopted a version covering the period between now and the end of 2019. It contains the following:

1. Analysing the information gathered: the so-called “typology”

A classification or typology will be made of the various existing legislative and other mechanisms related to the application of exceptions and limitations for libraries, archives and museums.

This work will draw upon previous documents produced by the committee, such as the Chair’s chart and the Crews studies (link to 2017 edition). It will offer libraries around the world a tool for understanding where they stand relative to other countries. It should also help them identify where reform could be needed.

2. Updates on archives

A scoping study on archives will be commissioned and will complement the information gathered already by Kenneth Crews in his studies. This will strengthen the case for enabling libraries’ archival activities.

3. Scoping study on museums

The secretariat has commissioned a study on museums to Prof. Yaniv Benhamou, which they hope to present during next SCCR. After a first study setting out the general framework of copyright limitations and exceptions for museums from 2015, this new work will complement the task conducted by Professor Crews on the analysis of legislation around the world for libraries and archives.

4. Brainstorming on libraries and archives and museums

A brainstorming exercise on libraries, archives and museums will be undertaken, with institutions and associations invited. It will draw on existing and upcoming work and offer ideas on future work at the international level. It will take place during the second half of 2018 and reported back to the committee.

5. Regional seminars

Instead of the initially planned 2 regional seminars, the number was increased to 3. These meetings will facilitate the analysis of the situation of libraries, archives and museums as well as educational and research institutions in different parts of the world and provide ideas on areas for action from WIPO. They will take place during the second half of 2018 and first half of 2019.

6. WIPO Conference on limitations and exceptions

An international conference will focus on the opportunities and challenges provided by various international solutions, including soft law, contractual/licensing and normative approaches, as appropriate. It will cover limitations and exceptions to copyright for libraries, archives, museums as well as educational and research institutions. Member states and stakeholders will be invited. The outcome will be reported back to SCCR at its 39th meeting.

Libraries, archives and museums together

The draft action plans initially presented by the Secretariat foresaw different working paths for libraries, archives and museums. IFLA, ICOM and ICA made the case for these three institutions to be treated together in the work of the committee and insisted on the cost of fragmentation. Libraries, archives and museums share the main goals of acquiring, preserving and giving access to our cultural heritage, and policies at an international level should reflect this principle.

The Broadcasting Treaty

After several years of discussion on the protection of broadcasting organisations, a treaty is on the table. However, the 36th meeting failed to close discussion on holding a diplomatic conference to finalise it.  for its adoption.

Libraries, together with several other civil society organisations, argued for the inclusion of exceptions and limitations in the text. The treaty protects the broadcast signals by giving broadcasters “post fixation rights” for a 50-year term (although it is still under discussion). Without robust exceptions for reporting on news, quotation, preservation, archiving, personal use and educational and training purposes, this new layer of rights risks undermining uses of works currently allowed under exceptions and limitations. 

IFLA therefore co-signed a joint NGO letter to delegates to WIPO SCCR on the proposed WIPO treaty of on broadcasting, voicing several concerns and urging the adoption of appropriate measures to “avoid unintended consequences to impede access to and use of works, or harm copyright holders”.

WIPO consultation on collective management of copyright

During the SCCR week, IFLA participated in a consultation meeting on the Draft Good Practice Toolkit for Collective Management Organizations, to which we had already submitted comments.

In both occasions, IFLA underlined the importance of clarifying the relationship between collecting societies and governments, of addressing the situation of openly licensed works and of acknowledging the role of exceptions and limitations.

The WIPO Secretariat took the comments on board, and another draft will be shared in a few months’ time. The result will be a non-normative document with relevant background information on the functioning of collective management around the world, and will hopefully guide government policies on the topic.  

What next?

One of the main outcomes of SCCR36 is that libraries, archives and museums will remain on the agenda for SCCR at least through 2019, with the next meeting taking place in six months’ time, around November 2018.

But IFLA will be active in the meanwhile. We will keep providing feedback when needed to member states to increase awareness of the problems faced by cultural heritage institutions in the digital world, and solutions that can be achieved at WIPO.

We encourage you to do the same. Ahead of SCCR36, many library associations and individual libraries reached out to their representatives to urge them to support libraries at WIPO. Over 20 letters were sent in more than 15 countries around the world. This contribution was key and facilitated IFLA’s work in getting member states to express their support during the meeting, where we heard very positive messages. We have collected some of the comments made by member states during the meeting in this document.

Ahead of next meeting, we encourage you to keep working at a national level to raise awareness for the need of work on the topic of exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives at WIPO.

You can watch the 36th SCCR through the WIPO web stream.

See what member states said about libraries.

All session-related documents (agenda, action plans, studies, etc.) are available online.

For more information on how WIPO works, why it is important and on how to get involved, read our GET INTO WIPO guide.

IFLA made the following statements during the meetings:

Read the joint NGO letter to delegates at WIPO SCCR on the proposed WIPO Broadcasting Treaty.

For more information, please contact ariadna.matas@ifla.org.