Limitations and exceptions are at the focus of attention by legislators and policy makers worldwide as it is a current issue at the agenda of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). WIPO is an agency of the United Nations specialised in developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property system. Its Standing Committee for Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) debates limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, educational activities, and persons with disabilities.

Accredited as an observer, IFLA advocates at SCCR on behalf of libraries and their users in support of an updated framework of limitations and exceptions that meets the needs of libraries in the 21st century.

In 2004, Chile recommended that SCCR undertake a review of the current state of limitations and exceptions within the larger realm of intellectual property regimes. This recommendation was adopted by WIPO in 2005, and WIPO subsequently initiated a series of studies on exceptions and limitations in specific sectors.

Particularly relevant to the work of IFLA was the study commissioned by WIPO from Kenneth Crews, "Study on Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries and Archives", which WIPO published in 2008. The results of this study revealed that numerous Member States had either no limitations or exceptions for libraries and archives in their national copyright legislation, or had only minimal, general provisions. It shows that libraries work under a patchwork of provisions, many of which fail to provide the minimum level of legal certainty that libraries need to carry out their functions in the global digital environment.

At the conclusion of the 21st session of the SCCR in November 2010 a work plan was agreed for 2011/12 concerning an update of copyright limitations and exceptions for persons with print and other reading disabilities, libraries and archives, and educational and research institutions. The following SCCR sessions (22 to 24) were allocated an extra three days each for "text-based work on appropriate limitations and exceptions " in these areas.

The 22nd session in June 2011 therefore concentrated on limitations and exceptions for persons with print and other reading disabilities. Significant progress was made during the meeting on this issue, as four separate proposals on the table were condensed into a Chair's text for an international instrument on limitations and exceptions for persons with disabilities. This document will constitute the basis for future text-based work to be undertaken by the Committee. Furthermore, the Committee agreed to recommend to the WIPO General Assembly that discussions continue regarding this document with an aim of agreeing and finalising a proposal on an international instrument on limitations and exceptions for persons with disabilities.

The 23rd session of the SCCR in November 2011 dedicated three days to discuss limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives. The Committee has a mandate to carry out text-based work, and parts of TLIB text have been tabled by members of the African Group at WIPO, as well as Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay. Following SCCR/23, there is now text on the table for each of the articles contained in TLIB. TLIB itself is not tabled; its content, however, is guiding discussions.

SCCR/23 concluded with agreement for further work on a list of topics relating to libraries and archives which includes Preservation, Right of Reproduction and Safeguarding 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.

Please see here for the results on all the SCCR sessions