[A2k] SCCR/32 EIFL statement on parallel importation

Teresa Hackett teresa.hackett at eifl.net
Thu May 12 13:48:43 PDT 2016


32nd Session: Geneva, 9 May – 13 May 2016
Agenda item 6: Limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives

Topic 5 Parallel Importation

I am speaking on behalf of Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) on
Topic 5 Parallel Importation.

Libraries buy books for their users, who need the books to teach their
subject, study for exams, or to conduct research. Some libraries specialize
in particular subjects and they build specialist collections in these areas.

When a required work is not available for sale on the local market, or not
within a reasonable time, or when the content of the imported edition is
different from the locally available edition, a library needs to be allowed
to legally purchase the work from another country.

In other words, for libraries it’s an access to information issue.

The problem is that a blanket national exhaustion rule means that libraries
are not allowed to import a book, for non-commercial purposes, because of
rules designed primarily to regulate consumer markets relating to the sale
of goods.

Ironically, libraries in the wealthiest markets with the greatest abundance
of information resources, have among the world’s fewest restrictions on

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the U.S. Copyright Act provides
an international exhaustion rule. Thus, if a U.S. library wants for its
collection a work that for some reason is not on sale in the U.S., it can
purchase a lawful copy of the work wherever it is sold *anywhere in the
world* and import it into the U.S.

The EU has adopted regional exhaustion. This means that if a library in my
home country, Ireland, wants a book that is not on sale in Ireland, it can
purchase a copy wherever it is sold in the 27 other countries of the EU.

Contrast that situation with a library in a country with a small market,
especially if it shares a common language with a much larger market. Or
with a library in a country where local buying power for books is low. Many
works are not on sale there because it’s not worth the effort for the

Where a national exhaustion rule applies, a library can’t purchase and
import legal copies of the works without negotiating special import
licenses with the publishers. The transaction costs of obtaining such
licenses are prohibitive, even if the library had the capacity to do so.

We welcome the proposals of the African Group, Ecuador and India on this

The consolidated text in document SCCR/29/4 enables libraries and archives
to acquire and import legally published works. The works may either be
purchased, or obtained in some other way e.g. by gift or donation. The work
must be published, and incorporated into the library collection.

Finally, we note that the Australian Government’s independent research and
advisory body - the Productivity Commission - recommends that all
restrictions on parallel import for books should be repealed, in its Draft
Report published in April 2016.

We look forward to further interactions with member states on this matter.

Thank you for your attention.

More information about the A2k mailing list