WIPO SCCR 25 Update: Progress on the Horizon

Last week the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) met in Geneva to further Member States’ negotiations on several matters.

WIPO published its SCCR 25 conclusions this week, and they are summarized in its SCCR 25 Update. The outcome of the negotiations is progress on three points: work toward a legal instrument to benefit visually impaired or print-disabled persons—the most concrete outcome, it appears (and attaining Canada’s endorsement); exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives and for educational institutions; and the protection of broadcasting organizations.

From the SCCR 25 Update:

Negotiations advanced to the point that Member States recommended that the WIPO General Assembly, which will be convened in extraordinary session on December 17 and 18, 2012, evaluate the draft and decide whether to convene a diplomatic conference in 2013 to adopt a legal instrument/treaty to benefit persons with visual impairment/print disabilities…

The Committee also addressed the issues of exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives and for educational, teaching and research institutions and persons with other disabilities. Negotiators reaffirmed their commitment to keep working and move the discussions forward on these crucial areas of the copyright system that enhance access to knowledge. In this respect an inter-sessional meeting devoted to discussing the item of exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives will be considered for the second half of 2013 at the next SCCR session.

Furthermore, Member States expressed strong interest in advancing their work on the protection of broadcasting organizations and decided to convene a three day inter-sessional meeting focused on this topic during the first quarter of 2013.

A plenary session at SCCR 25 saw an intervention by the Chair of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)’s Copyright and other Legal Matters Committee. Victoria Owen presented a joint statement by IFLA, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), and the Canadian Library Association (CLA) in support of a text-based, sequential approach to the discussions.

Bounding its central process request, though, certain commentary in the IFLA-EIFL-CLA Statement is noteworthy and of interest to libraries, archives, and educational institutions. The Statement welcomed the illustrated “engagement by Member States in the issues facing libraries at the confluence of copyright and access, public policy and private licensing, and evolving digital technologies.” The Statement pressed the urgent basis for clear exceptions for libraries in the digital environment, in the sense of the mandate and goals of libraries:

 Everyday libraries in all parts of the world provide information services to people for their work, study, research and leisure needs. [Their services enrich people’s lives and support important public policy goals including literacy, education, innovation, employment, and well-being.] Libraries require the ability to properly fulfil their mandate in the digital environment in order to meet the information needs of library users of tomorrow. We note with appreciation that document SCCR/23/8 includes topics essential to aiding this outcome such as digital preservation, and permitting the removal of digital locks for a non-infringing use.

…IFLA, EIFL, and CLA are highly conscious of the role of copyright protection in fostering creativity and are respectful of the rights of rightholders. Acquiring and managing copyrighted content is what libraries do everyday and they enjoy the highest of reputations for compliance with the law. Here we are asking for a clear framework that establishes a basic, minimum standard of limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives that is consistent with international law. It is a positive way to implement the Agreed Statement to Article 10 of the WCT, taking us forward into the 21st century. We do not seek harmonisation or a single solution because we recognise that nations have different needs and priorities.

For libraries, archives, and educational institutions, the further discussion planned for 2013 should be interesting to observe.

(Thanks to @HowardKnopf for the alert to the IFLA-EIFL-CLA Statement)

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