Efforts to use trade measures to delay or block long-overdue copyright reforms which will benefit libraries and their users are regrettable. In its comment to a review of South Africa’s enjoyment of preferential trade rules with the United States, IFLA has therefore called for the rejection of a petition seeking to punish the country for taking steps to improve how copyright functions.

Faced with rapid evolutions in both technologies and user expectations, there is a need for copyright reform around the world in order to ensure that libraries can fulfil their mission and support development.

Efforts to prevent such reforms tend primarily to support incumbent players, and can hold back learning and research locally. It is particularly unfortunate when, having exhausted democratic means, less democratic avenues such as threats of withdrawal of trade preferences are used to stop progress.

In this context, IFLA has submitted a comment in the context of the review of whether South Africa should continue to benefit from preferential trade rules with the United States. The review has been triggered by a request from an alliance of organisations looking to prevent the signing into law of new copyright provisions that would benefit libraries and their users.  

The comment will feed into a hearing of the United States Trade Representative’s GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) Subcommittee of the Trade Policy Staff Committee into whether South Africa should continue to benefit from preferential trade treatment.

IFLA’s submission highlights issues with the timing of the request (before it is possible to gather evidence on the impact of the new law), a number of the assertions it makes about the proposed law, and the harm that may be done to America’s own interests by bringing into question the compatibility of Fair Use with international law.

We will continue to follow progress on this issue.

Access the comment on our publications page.