CLM Chair Victoria Owen at SCCR/24

CLM Chair Victoria Owen at SCCR/24; © WIPO 2012. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod.

Prior to the World Library and Information Congress in Helsinki in August, members of IFLA’s CLM Committee and other library partners were engaged in the 24th meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Standing Committee on Copyright & Related Rights (SCCR/24). This meeting concluded in the early hours of the morning on July 26th, following 10 days of discussions of copyright exceptions and limitations for the visually impaired and print disabled, libraries and archives, education, and copyright protection of broadcast signals.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) were a strong presence at, participating in discussions on each agenda item. You can access all of the statements made by IFLA here.

Just before 2am on Thursday 26 July, SCCR/24 tabled their final conclusions, and a summary of these has been provided below.

1. Exceptions for educational, teaching, research institutions

Exceptions for educational and research institutions were discussed substantively for the first time during SCCR/24. The IFLA Statement can be found here.

In their conclusions, the Committee agreed to recommend to the WIPO General Assembly that they continue to work towards an appropriate international legal instrument, setting themselves a deadline of SCCR/30 (May/June 2015) to finalise text for a diplomatic conference.
Given this was the first time exceptions for education were on the agenda before SCCR, the working document adopted by the Committee reflects remarkable progress – perhaps better than was expected. That said, discussions on substantive aspects of the text are likely to encounter serious opposition in SCCR’s ahead. Publishers were heavy on the ground at SCCR/24 and have a lot at stake as SCCR continues to work on this ‘monster’ topic.

2. Exceptions for libraries and archives

Discussions on exceptions for libraries and archives were less substantial at SCCR/24. On a positive note however, working document SCCR/23/8 was adopted by the Committee for discussion at SCCR/25, which contains all of the issues IFLA and its associated partners raised with member states, and is a good foundation for discussions going forward.

With exceptions for libraries and archives being lower on the agenda at SCCR/24, IFLA urged the Committee to make finalising a treaty for the visually impaired and print disabled their top priority for SCCR/24. Winston Tabb, head of delegation for IFLA, delivered an intervention on day 4 of the meeting:

Now is the time to act; the need is urgent. Visually impaired and print disabled people are deprived of the basic human right to read because this committee has not been able to agree. The library community, which is the major provider of services assisting blind people to access information, believes that the proposed treaty that the World Blind Union and related organizations is seeking is right, fair, just, and long overdue.”

3. Exceptions for the visually impaired and print disabled

Despite lengthy informal sessions into the evenings and over the weekend during SCCR/24, the Committee was unable to finalise text on copyright exceptions that would ensure access to content for the world’s blind. While some member states could clearly envisage a binding treaty protecting broadcasting signals, the nature of a legal instrument that would affect the lives of more than 285 million people with visual impairments is still very unclear. IFLA strongly supports a binding treaty enshrining copyright exceptions and limitations that would enable the world’s visually impaired and print disabled to access copyright works.

The Committee has set a pathway to convening a diplomatic conference on an instrument for visually impaired persons in 2013, and demonstrated a commitment at SCCR/24 to progressing the text – delegates were involved in late nights and weekend informals. Member States also agreed to hold intersessionals specifically on the instrument for the visually impaired in October this year to progress the text further. Nonetheless, there is still a lot of bracketed text to discuss, and IFLA is particularly concerned by the bracketing of libraries as entities who would be permitted to copy works into accessible formats for the visually impaired under any legal instrument.

4. Broadcasting

While they were unable to agree on the nature of an instrument ensuring access to books for the visually impaired, member states acknowledged their support for a treaty to protect broadcasting signals. From three significantly different text proposals, the Committee knitted together a working document and agreed to work towards convening a diplomatic conference in 2014 on a treaty for the protection of broadcasting signals. IFLA continued to express their concern regarding a binding treaty protecting broadcasting signals at SCCR/24, and delivered an intervention highlighting the issues this may cause for libraries as facilitators of access to content.

You can read the intervention here.