Last week, IFLA attended the 37th meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). This is the primary international forum for governments to discuss copyright, and in particular limitations and exceptions to copyright for libraries.

It is a place where major change is possible. Among other things, WIPO has the competence to adopt international instruments, and the Marrakesh Treaty is the most recent example with an impact on the work of libraries. For more information, see our “Get into WIPO” guide.

IFLA has engaged at WIPO over a number of years to raise awareness and promote progress on the rules that allow libraries to do their job in a globalised, digital world. In line with a mandate given by WIPO’s General Assembly in 2012, IFLA supports the development of a legal instrument that will help harmonise and update copyright legislation for libraries globally.

IFLA keeps insisting on the need of an international instrument that harmonises and updates legislation on the topic of copyright for libraries around the world and is engaging to make sure that the action plans will lead to consensus on that solution.

Libraries on the Agenda

At the previous meeting of the SCCR, Member States successfully adopted action plans on libraries, as well as archives, museums and educational and research organisations. Last week’s meeting therefore focused on proposed studies on how copyright laws affect the work of our institutions.

After opening statements where Member States underlined their support for the work of libraries, the Committee heard how Professor Kenneth Crews, author of several WIPO studies, plans to develop a ‘typology’ of copyright exceptions. This promises to allow exciting new possibilities to reflect on and compare laws in place, and identify areas of convergence and divergence. It will also be a powerful resource for library advocacy around the world.

In parallel, IFLA engaged closely with delegates to encourage them to use upcoming regional meetings – another element of the agreed action plans – effectively. These meetings will offer an opportunity to hear the experiences of librarians on the ground who have to deal with uneven, and often outdated copyright laws.

With strong similarities in the way copyright laws affect all cultural heritage institutions, libraries are often discussed alongside archives and museums. IFLA therefore also participated in discussions on a study on museums. We look forward to further information from Professor Crews, as well as a report on archives, at the next meeting in April 2019.

You can download IFLA’s general statement on exceptions and limitations.  

A Wider Perspective

While IFLA focuses its efforts on questions around exceptions and limitations to copyright, the Committee itself has a longer agenda.

This includes a draft treaty for broadcasting organisations. While there appears to be some progress on this dossier, it remains controversial. Without proper exceptions and limitations to copyright, it could seriously complicate the work of libraries holding audiovisual collections. See IFLA’s brief on the proposed broadcasting treaty for more, and our statement at SCCR on the topic.

There were also discussions about a possible study on the distribution of revenues from digital music services (among others, the question behind reforms in the European Union which have threatened the rules that allow libraries to manage institutional or open educational resource repositories). This work may, potentially, be extended to literary works in future, which would create valuable new evidence. IFLA also made a statement on the topic during SCCR.

What’s next

IFLA will keep engaging with its members and Member States to ensure that the regional seminars create an adequate forum of discussion that helps us advance on the matter. These efforts will lead up to an international conference in October 2019, where Member States will discuss how best to deliver progress for libraries and others.

Once again, IFLA was lucky to collaborate with many partner organisations that are joining efforts to ensure the best results at WIPO. We also wish to thank the many library associations who followed our call for action and who tweeted using #Copyright4Libraries ahead and during SCCR/37. As a follow up, we have released a list of quotes of what Member States said about libraries.  

The sessions can be watched through the WIPO web stream.