Faced with the urgent need to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic and its consequences, it is vital to ensure that intellectual property laws and practices do not become a blockage. IFLA, working with its partners, has led in drafting an open letter to the Director General of WIPO to underline this point and call for action. UPDATE – over 312 organisations and individuals have now signed. 

Copyright and intellectual property laws – and the practices they support – have a defining influence on the work of libraries at any time.

For many years, IFLA and its partners have been active in calling for reforms which bring relevant rules up to date with a global, digitised world.

The need for such laws, enabling both analogue and digital uses of works – for example eLending alongside traditional lending, or remote access to academic books, alongside on-site possibilities – has been made clearer than ever with the crisis.

Forced to close their doors to the public, libraries need to be able to provide access in support of research, education and access to culture at distance. Without this possibility, not only is it more difficult to counter the spread of COVID-19, but there is more widespread disruption which will leave scars long into the future.  

However, intellectual property laws and practices do not necessary allow this. While there have been many positive initiatives from publishers – often in response to calls from libraries – these do not cover all needs or situations.  

As a result, IFLA has worked with partners to prepare an open letter to Dr Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), calling on the Organization to show leadership. Over 312 organisations and individuals, as of 5 April 2020, have already signed. 

It stresses the need for Member States to use existing flexibilities to facilitate public interest uses of works, for rightholders to give the necessary permissions for use, and for steps to be taken to support the development and delivery of treatments.  

In line with the goals of the wider United Nations system to accelerate the fight against the pandemic and its consequences – as well as the broader Sustainable Development Goals – we hope that WIPO will be able to play its part.

You can access the letter as a pdf. The letter is still open for sign-on for interested organisations and individuals through this form.