IFLA participated in the Assemblies of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), held on 4-8 October 2021. With COVID rules preventing in-person attendance by non-governmental organisations, IFLA engaged remotely, alongside partners from across the culture, education and research sectors.

The Assemblies provide an opportunity for Member States to look at the totality of the work of the organisation, including the progress of its committees, and its Programme of Work and Budget for the coming two years.

In its interventions, IFLA highlighted the role of WIPO, as a United Nations agency, in ensuring that the way in which intellectual property laws are designed serves to support sustainable development across the board.

Alongside colleagues from the culture, education and research fields, IFLA noted the evidence provided by the COVID-19 pandemic of the difficulties and uncertainties that unreformed copyright laws can create for libraries and their users in their work.

While flexible laws have proven their worth by enabling remote access to items in library collections, institutions elsewhere have faced challenges in offering online storytimes, access to eResources or digitised physical resources, or obtaining permissions to carry out activities such as text and data mining.

Meanwhile, with COP26 coming up in less than a month, WIPO can also play a role in ensuring that libraries everywhere can preserve and give access to heritage, including through partnerships that cross borders.

There are encouraging signs. WIPO’s Programme of Work and Budget recognises the importance of understanding better the impact of COVID on copyright users and holders, while the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related rights will organise a session at its next meeting on the same topic.

However, such actions in the short term need to be part of a longer term roadmap towards concrete actions for necessary changes which will remove unneeded barriers to the activities of libraries, without creating unjustified prejudice to the legitimate interests of rightholders.

In particular, the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related rights is still bound by a mandate from 2012 to develop instruments in the field of limitations and exceptions. The Treaty of Marrakesh, focused on the needs of persons with print disabilities, demonstrates the power of WIPO in driving national reforms, and can provide a very relevant model.

IFLA looks forwards to continuing to engage with WIPO and its Member States to bring this progress about.

Read IFLA’s Statements as submitted to the WIPO General Assemblies:

IFLA Statements at 2021 WIPO Assemblies

At the 2021 World Intellectual Property Organization Assemblies, IFLA submitted statements under items for General Statements (Item 5), Report on the Work of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) (Item 15), and the Marrakesh Treaty (Item 28)