IFLA was proud to attend WIPO SCCR/42, May 9 – 13, an eventful week that saw discussions of the impact of COVID-19 on libraries and a commitment to further study cross-border challenges and develop toolkits on copyright limitations and exceptions before SCCR/43 in 2023.

The 42nd meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (WIPO SCCR/42) was the group’s first in-person meeting since the pandemic began.

Appropriately, one of the first major items of discussion was the impact of COVID, with a special section devoted to the experiences of rightsholders during the pandemic and another to that of cultural and educational institutions. Each section featured an expert panel,  on which globally-diverse representatives of institutions and industries discussed their overall experiences with the pandemic.

In advance of SCCR/42, IFLA produced a report research report, “How well did copyright laws serve libraries during COVID-19?”. IFLA inquired whether the authors of the Committee’s Expert Report had evidence that offers of expanded access to digital content that some publishers made to libraries early in the pandemic were well-utilized, as IFLA’s report suggested the offers were for too short a period of time to be meaningfully integrated into teaching and research activities. The panel responded generally to civil society’s inquires that they hoped the report would prompt further discussion and assessment of the pandemic’s impact.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw further discussion of broadcast rights and the broadcast treaty, which has been under discussion since the late 1990s. IFLA delivered a statement in support of limitations and exceptions for broadcast rights, to ensure that institutions working in preservation have flexibility in how they store, back-up, and engage with broadcast content. The Committee agreed to continue discussions on the treaty at SCCR/43.

Late in the week saw extended discussion of the proposal of WIPO’s African regional group for a work plan regarding limitations and exceptions for libraries, archives, educational institutions, research institutions, and persons with disabilities. IFLA representatives delivered a statement in support of the African Group’s proposal and greater copyright limitations and exceptions.

The Committee agreed the Secretariat would:

  • Invite presentations by experts and members regarding cross-border problems with online materials in education.
  • Develop tool kits to “help Member States craft laws and policies that support education, research and preservation of cultural heritage” in consultation with various stakeholders.
  • “present (1) a scoping study on limitations and exceptions on research and (2) a toolkit on preservation.”

It was emphasized that the work plan concerns the development of best practices, not work toward a treaty or other binding legal instrument. This has been a point of contention for many years, with developed countries trying to limit the overall goal of this work to non-binding instruments.

The Committee did not agree to further the proposal’s suggestions to further discuss text and data mining limitation & exceptions, copyright implications of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science (2021), and contract override & safe harbour protections. However, the Committee will return to these issues next time. For libraries, these are highly relevant, and it will be important for governments and other stakeholders alike (not least libraries) to draw on WIPO’s potential on these themes.

There were also discussions around observerships for non-governmental organisations, including a number of Wikimedia chapters and the Global Expert Network on Copyright User Rights. The applications of Wikimedia chapters in six countries were not approved.

While the delegates considered holding a second, shorter meeting in October to discuss the broadcast treaty and limitations & exceptions, they ultimately decided to give preference to two full sessions in 2023, as they had in years prior to the pandemic.

Mr. Aziz Dieng from Senegal was elected to serve as Chair for the week until the beginning of SCCR/43 in 2023. Mr. Owen Ripley from Canada will serve as Vice-Chair during this period and Chair from SCCR/43 through the first SCCR in 2024, during which period Dieng will serve as Vice-Chair. Mr. Peter Labody from Hungary will also serve as Vice-Chair until the first SCCR in 2024.

The Committee Chair’s summary of SCCR/42 is available.

Photos from the event, including of IFLA’s representatives, are available on WIPO’s Flickr page.

Keep an eye on our blog to see more reaction from the meeting!