The UN agency that manages the global intellectual property system – including copyright – has nominated a new Director General. As the current Chair of the organisation’s copyright committee – and as a modernising reformer nationally – he will bring a strong awareness of the needs of libraries to the role.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), based in Geneva, is a key focus for IFLA’s advocacy efforts around copyright reform.

With the potential to define international rules that can both incentivise national reform and offer legal certainty for work across borders, it has already proven its potential with the Marrakesh Treaty.

Following twelve years under the leadership of Dr Francis Gurry, the members of its Coordinating Committee met last week to nominate a successor from a field of candidates from around the world, and with different areas of expertise.

Daren Tang, Chief Executive and Registrar, Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, speaking as Chair of the 39th meeting of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights​From among these, Daren Tang – Chief Executive and Registrar of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, and current chair of WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) – emerged as the winner. Assuming the formal confirmation process can be completed, he will take up his new role on 1 October 2020.

When he does, he will take on responsibility not only for the stewardship of the international intellectual property system – WIPO has an important role in registering patents and trademarks internationally – but also for enabling and advancing reflection and discussion about how tools such as copyright can best contribute to innovation and wider social, economic and environmental progress.


A Key Stakeholder for Libraries

The actions Mr Tang takes concerning ongoing discussions on limitations and exceptions for libraries, archives, museums, education and research will have a particular impact for IFLA’s members.

In too many countries, laws simply do not provide libraries with the exceptions to copyright they need to fulfil their missions. In many others, laws exist, but have not kept up with the shift to digital materials and uses. And in the absence of global action, there is no way for libraries to enjoy legal certainty in cooperating freely across borders to carry out public interest missions such as preservation.

However, SCCR has, so far, made limited progress given resistance by some to any sort of meaningful action, and efforts by others to promote licensing as a solution to everything.

Mr Tang himself has already set out his own credentials as a reformer domestically, preparing amendments to Singaporean law which will provide a welcome boost to education and research. He has also underlined in speeches the need for solutions for cross border activities, especially in the case of smaller and highly connected countries like Singapore.

IFLA Secretary-General Gerald Leitner said:

I am very glad to see someone with a strong knowledge of copyright – and great record of modernising reform at the national level – take on this role. This is promising news for libraries, who depend on the right copyright laws to support research, education and access to culture. IFLA wishes Mr Tang well in this new role, and hopes that it leads to fresh energy in efforts towards meaningful international action.

We look forward to working with Mr Tang in his new role.

Find out more about IFLA’s work at WIPO.