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Victoria and other delegates. Photo courtesy of Gary Shaffer, IFLA

WIPO SCCR Report May 2016

By Victoria Stobo (Copyright Policy Advicer and Trustee, SCA)

In May, I attended the 32nd Session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). If you’ve seen my previous reports, 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 basic standards that should be incorporated 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.

The archive representation was made up of myself, Bill Maher of the Society of American Archivists, and Tim Padfield, representing the International Council on Archives, standing in for Jean Dryden. Our newest recruit is Susan Corrigall from the National Records of Scotland, representing the Archives and Records Association of the UK and Ireland. As usual, we worked closely with our colleagues from the European Bureau of Library  Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA) and Electronic Information for Libraries (eIFL) amongst others, with the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) taking overall charge of the delegation.

We have made good progress through the Chair’s topics – in this session, we were able to speak on three subjects: Parallel Importation, Cross-Border Uses, and Orphan, Out of Commerce and Retracted Works. I presented research from the Digitising the Edwin Morgan Scrapbooks Project at the University of Glasgow to illustrate that current EU and UK legislation on orphan works is not alleviating the burden of rights clearance on cultural heritage institutions – in fact, it may be making things worse. You can read more about the Edwin Morgan project here.

We were able to take advantage of targeted preparation for this event: we presented a tightly co-ordinated front and a strong evidence base. With the support of other NGOs, including groups like Knowledge Ecology International and the Karisma Foundation, we outnumbered the publishers in attendance. We presented evidence on each of the topics to show that licensing and market solutions are not the answer for many of the problems that face the cultural heritage sector: libraries already spend large proportions of their budgets on licences, while we still require robust exceptions to the law that allow us to preserve and provide access to our collections more effectively.

IFLA also organised a side-event, ‘From Shelves to Servers’ that other NGOs and national delegates were able to attend during the lunch hour set aside on Wednesday 11th May. I spoke alongside Alicia Ocaso from the Uruguayan Library Association and Victoria Owens, Head Librarian at University of Toronto Scarborough. Alicia discussed the contribution libraries can make to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and their importance for Latin America and Caribbean countries. Victoria explained developments in Canadian schools and universities, where librarians, teachers and students have   benefited  from   extended   fair    dealing provisions for educational purposes. I presented some of my PhD research, focusing on the results of rights clearance processes as various archive institutions. You can read a more detailed overview of the session here.

Overall, this has been the most optimistic SCCR I have attended yet: it certainly felt in May that our efforts were beginning to bear fruit in terms of presenting a strong, effective evidence base. We also received excellent feedback from the WIPO secretariat. To top it off, Canada became the 20th country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty on the 30th June 2016, triggering the process by which the treaty will now officially come into force (on the 30th September 2016).

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, aims to end the ‘book famine.’ The treaty requires signatories to pass legislation that provides limitations and exceptions for the reproduction, distribution and making available of works in accessible formats, like Braille. This is a fantastic result for all of the library, archive and public interest groups that worked for so long to see the treaty come into effect.

We will continue to work our way through the Chair’s topics at the next meeting of the SCCR (33rd), to be held in November 2016, where we will cover Limitations on Liability and Technological Measures of Protection. Looking forward, the topics should be completed at SCCR 34, in May 2017, after which we hope to be able to negotiate the start of text-based work on a treaty.