The Hague/Geneva: The 23rd session of the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) ended on 2nd December 2011. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the International Council on Archives (ICA), Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), the Canadian Library Association (CLA), the German Library Association (dbv), the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) welcome the significant progress made by WIPO Member States towards achieving a global set of copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives.

SCCR/23 concluded with agreement for further discussion on a list of topics relating to libraries and archives which includes preservation, right of reproduction and supply of copies, legal deposit, library lending, parallel importation, cross-border uses, orphan works, retracted and withdrawn works, liability of libraries and archives, technological measures of protection, contracts, and the right to translate works. Member States have until the end of February 2012 to submit written comments to the WIPO Secretariat for inclusion in the document Provisional Working Document containing comments on and textual suggestions towards an appropriate international legal instrument (in whatever form) on exceptions and limitations for Libraries and Archives (SCCR/23/8 Prov.), which will be discussed at SCCR/24 in 2012.

Library and archives groups have been advocating for an international treaty so that WIPO Member States establish a set of basic, minimum limitations and exceptions for the benefit of libraries, archives, and their users in their national copyright laws. Currently, libraries operate under a patchwork of provisions that differ from country to country that often do not meet the needs of libraries especially in the global, digital environment. For the first time, the WIPO SCCR, the main body that shapes international copyright law, dedicated three extra days to discussion of limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives.

“The way WIPO Member States have engaged with library and archives issues has been very encouraging indeed” said IFLA President Ingrid Parent. “We feel that real progress was made during the SCCR that we hope will lead to an international solution to benefit libraries and archives, and their users, everywhere.”

ICA President, Martin Berendse, and past SAA  President, William Maher, were especially appreciative of the attention given to the issue of library and archives exceptions at WIPO: “I was very pleased at the focus on issues important to archivists, such as orphan works, that gave us an opportunity to explain the problems we are facing”, Berendse said. Maher added: “The issues of copying for preservation, especially born-digital materials, and research and educational use of orphan works have been of great concern to archives for the past decade. SCCR’s consideration of prospective provisions for library and archives exemptions augurs well for researchers, students, and the public worldwide.”

Rima Kupryte, EIFL Director further stressed: “This was a unique opportunity to present library and archives copyright issues, in particular for developing and transition countries, at the highest international level, to engage with WIPO Member States on substantive issues for libraries and archives, and to share our specialist knowledge and experience to enhance the debate.”

IFLA, ICA, CLA, dbv, LACA, EIFL and SAA were heartened by the full and thoughtful discussion by Member States that took place over the three days dedicated to libraries and archives and particularly thank the African Group, Brazil, Ecuador, the United States of America and Uruguay for their proposals. The library and archives organisations will continue working with WIPO Member States to gain support for a binding international instrument on copyright limitations and exceptions to enable libraries and archives to preserve their collections, support education and research, and lend materials.