Round-up of the week at WIPO’s copyright committee
EIFL's Copyright and Libraries Programme Manager, Teresa Hackett, reports on a busy week advocating for fair access to knowledge at WIPO’s SCCR/33

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EIFL Copyright and Libraries Programme Manager Teresa Hacket addressing a lunchtime panel discussion during SCCR/33 on the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities
EIFL Copyright and Libraries Programme Manager Teresa Hacket (far left) addressing a lunchtime panel discussion during SCCR/33 on the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities

EIFL joined a 13-strong team representing the world’s libraries, archives and museums advocating for an international treaty for fair access to knowledge at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR/33), which met in Geneva from 14-18 November 2016.

EIFL was represented at SCCR/33 by Copyright and Libraries Programme Manager, Teresa Hackett, and Pratyush Nath Upreti of Upreti & Associates in Nepal.

In this blog, Teresa Hackett presents a round-up of the busy week at WIPO.


The chasm between industrialized countries, so-called ‘Group B’ currently led by Turkey and the European Union (EU) led by Slovakia, and the rest of the world seems as great as ever.

Group B and the EU believe that the current copyright system works perfectly well, while everyone else recognizes the importance of global cooperation in the digital environment.

And while the EU is undertaking its own copyright reforms for the EU Digital Single Market, it is holding up the international community by not engaging in any meaningful way in multilateral discussions.

The EU position at WIPO is, however, coming under scrutiny from the European Parliament.

EIFL welcomes the recent question by MEP Marietje Schaake to the European Commission on when it will consult the European Parliament on its position at WIPO, and how the Commission ensures that positions defined for WIPO take account of institutional viewpoints (institutions such as libraries, archives and museums).


During the discussion on limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, ( a powerful statement read by Chile on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group of countries (GRULAC) highlighted why a coordinated international response is needed to address copyright issues faced by libraries and archives in the digital world.

In the statement, GRULAC told the story of how courageous information specialists took legal risks by putting on the internet material that casts new light on how equal rights for women came to be included in the United Nations Charter of 1945.

“The UN Charter of 1945 was one of the first international treaties to mention in its text the need for equal rights for men and women. This fact was for a long time attributed to diplomats of developed countries. In fact, after an investigation at the University of London, it was discovered that it was in fact the result of the insistence of Latin American women in the conference, led by Brazilian scientist and diplomat Bertha Lutz,” the GRULAC statement said.

The statement concluded that this history was only made known because of the digital work of researchers and information specialists in Brazil and the UK. Although Bertha Lutz’s documents were not in the public domain, the museum scientists at the Bertha Lutz Virtual Museum had taken the risk of putting the information on the internet for the good of all.

The story recounted by GRULAC illustrates how librarians and archivists in the digital world routinely find themselves having to take calculated risks for the public good. And since the issues involve the making of digital copies and the uses of those copies by people located in different countries with different copyright laws, the story shows why clear international rules are needed to support access to knowledge and research, in particular a limitation on liability from copyright infringement.


Limitation on liability was one of the four library and archive sub-topics discussed by member states at SCCR/33. The other topics were contracts, technological protection measures, and translation.

Representatives of libraries, archives and museums made over 20 interventions on the four topics that rounded off discussion on the 11 sub-topics relating to libraries and archives that have been under consideration by SCCR over the last two years. Read the EIFL statements here.

The Chair of the SCCR then produced an updated version of the informal chart used to guide the discussions that streamlines the topics and removes three - legal deposit, retracted and withdrawn works, and out-of-commerce works. For each of the remaining topics, the chart sets out the principle, the concern and the suggested approach. The revised chart will provide the basis for future discussion at SCCR/34 in May 2017.

A new proposal from Argentina on libraries and archives, education and persons with other disabilities (document reference SCCR/33/4) will also be discussed at the next session.


In other developments, Professor Daniel Seng, National University of Singapore, presented his completed Study on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Educational Activities.

The study runs to over 1,000 pages and reviews over 2,000 pieces of copyright legislation from 189 WIPO member states.

It focuses on eight categories of limitations and exceptions that relate to educational activities, forming the basis of an informal chart prepared by the Chair for further discussion on the topics by the committee. Update: read Communia's take on the study.

On persons with disabilities (other than print disabilities), Professor Blake Reid, University of Colorado Boulder, presented a scoping study on limitations and exceptions for persons with other disabilities. The study will be done in collaboration with Professor Caroline Ncube from the University of Cape Town, and will be completed for SCCR/34 in May 2017.


Lunch-time events were held during the week on topics of special interest - the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities, and public lending right (PLR).,

On Monday (14 November), a panel discussion organized by WIPO’s Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) brought home two key points - the central role being played by libraries around the world in operationalizing the Marrakesh Treaty, and how fears that accessible books might be diverted for use outside the beneficiary community are not borne out by experience. Read about the event in IP Watch.

On Wednesday (16 November), the South Centre and GRULAC organized a panel discussion on implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty with participation from copyright officials from Paraguay and Brazil, and civil society.

During this session, I summarized six practical issues relating to process and substance, based on EIFL’s experience working with libraries in partner countries, as well as recent EU proposals for its implementation in Europe.

On Thursday (17 November), the International Authors Forum and PLR International presented a guide to the public lending right (payment of fees for public lending by libraries) with panelists from the author, library and administrative perspective.

It was also announced that PLR will be introduced in Malawi.

During the question and answer session, EIFL noted that due to insufficient support from member states and concern at the negative impact on developing countries (with limited book budgets to buy primary materials), PLR was removed from the agenda of WIPO’s 1996 Copyright Treaties. EIFL will advocate with libraries and the authorities in Malawi to ensure that library budgets are protected.


On 16 November 2016, WIPO announced its new Open Access policy ‘to promote the widest possible public access to its publications, furthering the Organization’s commitment to the dissemination and sharing of knowledge’.

The new Open Access policy was roundly welcomed by stakeholders from the user communities, as well as representatives of Creative Commons and Communia who were present.


Other topics on the agenda included a proposal by GRULAC on the analysis of copyright in the digital environment welcomed by libraries, the longstanding discussion of a proposed treaty for the protection of broadcasting organizations (that took up almost half the week), and a presentation by Prof. Sam Ricketson on the artist’s resale right, a royalty payment when an artistic work is re-sold.

With a busy agenda ahead, we will have to work hard to ensure that limitations and exceptions for libraries, archives and museums get their rightful attention and that we keep moving forward in 2017 for the benefit of libraries everywhere.