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WIPO flags at the Pont du Mont-Blanc, Geneva © WIPO 2010. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod

WIPO SCCR Report December 2015

By Victoria Stobo (Copyright Policy Advicer, SCA)

The 31st meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights was held at the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva on 7th-11th December 2015.

If you spotted my previous report from SCCR 30, you’ll know that the assembled archive and library representatives are arguing for an international treaty on limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, which would set minimum standards that should be recognised in a signatory country's national legislation. The fragmented and inconsistent nature of legislation in different countries creates legal uncertainty and promotes discrepancies in access to information between rich and poor nations. Harmonisation creates global norms, which removes international barriers to research, teaching and learning, encourages sustainable development, and allows archivists and librarians to work in an international context with predictable, uniform rules. Countries from Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and the Asia Pacific regions continue to be our strongest supporters in this process.

So far, text-based work on a treaty has been blocked by other WIPO member states including the EU. This is all the more galling as, while SCCR31 was taking place, the EU Commission released a Communication on Copyright, setting the agenda for copyright reform within the EU for the foreseeable future. This document states that harmonisation of exceptions is a key aim to enable the growth and development of the digital single market. And yet, at WIPO, the EU delegation continues to stick to a script that singularly undermines that aim: they continue to insist that the international legal regime functions well (despite evidence presented to the contrary), that there’s no need for harmonisation (despite the EU requiring it within it’s own borders), and that licensing can fill any gaps in the provision of access to information (despite the fact that libraries spend $25 billion dollars a year globally on licensed content and are still unable to access and lend what they need to, and despite the fact that licensing can’t solve the problems faced by archives). Suggestions that what is good for the EU might be good for the rest of the globe continue to be met with strange justifications: the single market is a ‘special case,’ such measures are unworkable outside the EU, and so on.

Lucie Guibault and Elisabeth Logeais presented a study on the limitations and exceptions available to museums. This new study compliments Kenneth Crews’ existing work on limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives. These reports are the most comprehensive studies of the global provision of limitations and exceptions for cultural heritage institutions within national copyright laws. They highlight the discrepancies between national laws that make it so hard for citizens to access their heritage, and to share that heritage across borders legally.

Having presented contributions on preservation at SCCR 30, the library and archive NGOs were able to cover three further topics at this meeting: Right of Reproduction and safeguarding copies, Legal Deposit and Library Lending. This leaves seven topics to be discussed at future meetings of the SCCR: Parallel Importation; Cross-border Uses; Orphan works, retracted and withdrawn works, works out of commerce; Limitation on Liability for Libraries and Archives; Technological Measures of Protection; Contracts; and Translation.

On a more celebratory note, Brazil and Australia took the opportunity presented by SCCR31 to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. This now takes the tally of current ratifications of the treaty to thirteen: only seven more are needed for the treaty to enter into force. The Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (of which the SCA is now a member) have contacted the IPO to urge the UK government to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty as soon as possible.

Libraries and archives were represented at SCCR 31 by the International Federation and Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the International Council on Archives (ICA), the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA); Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), the Society of American Archivists (SAA); the Deutscher Bibliotheksverband (DBV), the Scottish Council on Archives (SCA) and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).