A special session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) took place from 18-22 February 2013 in Geneva to reach consensus on the draft text of an international treaty on copyright limitations and exceptions for visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities. The treaty is scheduled to be finalized and adopted at a diplomatic conference in Marrakesh scheduled for 17-28 June 2013.

Representing IFLA at last week’s meeting was Janice Pilch, Copyright and Licensing Librarian at Rutgers University Libraries, who serves as the U.S. representative to the IFLA Committee on Copyright and Other Legal Matters. While the meeting was marked by disagreement among delegates from WIPO Member States early in the week and there were concerns that a lack of consensus might derail the possibility of a diplomatic conference, by the end of the week there was sufficient agreement on key issues to move the discussion one step closer to completion. Much of the discussion at the special session took place in informal meetings that were closed to participating NGO observer organizations.

Key issues resolved at the special session were language incorporating the terms of the so-called “three-step test,” referencing the Berne Convention, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property in a provision entitled “Respect for copyright provision;” and language permitting Member States to implement the treaty through specific exceptions and limitations or through general exceptions such as fair use or fair dealing. “Contracting Parties may fulfill their rights and obligations under this Treaty through, exceptions or limitations specifically for the benefit of beneficiary persons, other exceptions or limitations, or a combination thereof within their national legal traditions/systems. These may include judicial, administrative or regulatory determinations for the benefit of beneficiary persons as to fair practices, dealings or uses to meet their needs.”

On Friday, February 22, the SCCR agreed to convene an additional informal session from April 18 and 19, 2013 and a special session on April 20, 2013 to resolve pending issues concerning the language of the draft treaty. Among the controversial provisions that await resolution is the section on commercial availability of accessible copies in Article D, which relates to applicability of exceptions under the treaty if the particular accessible format can be obtained commercially under reasonable terms for beneficiary persons in that market, and whether the responsibility for  investigating the availability of a copy in the particular accessible format should lie with the exporting or the importing authorized entity. Also left for the April meeting is consensus on Article F on obligations concerning technological protection measures and Article J relating to the possibility of collecting “anonymous and aggregated data relating to the cross-border exchange of accessible format copies.” Libraries and archives have opposed the idea of record-keeping related to the treaty implementation.

The official conclusions of the special session, dated February 22, 2013, have been posted to the WIPO website