[A2k] WIPO “Marathon Session” on Libraries, Archives, Reading Disabled Instrument (ICTSD)

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Wed Nov 23 17:41:17 PST 2011


WIPO Ctte Launches “Marathon Session” on Libraries, Archives, Reading
Disabled Instrument

The World Intellectual Property Organization’s copyright body kicked
off negotiations this week, with the goal of advancing major work on
exceptions and limitations instruments for libraries and archives and
the reading disabled.  However, significant debate on whether these
instruments should be legally binding treaties or soft law
instruments, such as joint recommendations, has put developing and
developed countries at odds with one another.

The previous session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and
Related Rights (SCCR) saw a coalition of countries - including the US,
Brazil, Argentina and the EU - come together to support an instrument
for the reading disabled (see Bridges Weekly 29 June 2011) and
agreeing to the compilation of a Chair document based on the
discussions that took place. That session also agreed to move forward
a previously stalled treaty for the protection of audiovisual
performances and advance discussions on an instrument to protect
broadcasting organisations.

In the current session, the SCCR is placing major focus on copyright
limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, with three days
of discussion being dedicated to the issue. WIPO Director-General
Francis Gurry, in his opening address, called this a “marathon
session” of the SCCR, hoping it can find a “clearer way forward” on
the libraries and archives item.

In a statement to the SCCR on Monday 21 November, the International
Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) recalled
that “libraries and archives currently work under a patchwork of
provisions that differ in scope and effect from country to country…
[and they] increasingly fail to address the legal and policy
challenges and opportunities of the global digital environment.”

“Now more than ever, libraries need copyright frameworks that
recognise the importance…of libraries and their users,” it added.

Substantive proposals on libraries and archives have been submitted to
this session by Brazil, with amendments from Ecuador and Uruguay, the
African Group and the United States. Throughout the discussions on
Monday and Tuesday, there were extensive discussions about the
ultimate objectives of the process, particularly regarding whether the
SCCR has an obligation to draft text for a treaty or another kind of

“We don’t have an obligation to draft a text in the form of treaty
language,” the EU urged, to which Pakistan replied, “We are under no
obligation to draft text on treaty language at this stage, but we are
under obligation to draft a text as we had all agreed.”

As a compromise, several countries suggested that proposals be grouped
into thematic clusters so that they could be more easily discussed.
On Tuesday, all proposals were compiled by the WIPO Secretariat in a
table intended to facilitate discussions.

Some countries expressed concern that the table also included a treaty
proposal by the International Federation of Library Associations and
Institutions (IFLA), since the SCCR cannot consider proposals that are
not endorsed by a member state.

As Bridges went to press, member states agreed to Chair Manuel Guerra
Zamarro’s suggestion to discuss the proposals under 10 thematic
clusters and submit their written comments for compilation by the end
of the week (with an extended three month deadline).

Reading disabled instrument gets attention, but no certainty

Similarly, member states seem to still be at odds on whether an
instrument for the reading disabled should be a soft law, in the form
of a joint recommendation, or a legally binding treaty - an issue that
has featured in previous SCCR sessions (see Bridges Weekly, 29 June

In their opening statement, Brazil noted that “WIPO should contribute
with nothing less than a treaty to help address the book famine that
deprives persons with print disabilities of access to written works
and to provide them with legal certainty to benefit from the
limitations and exceptions we are designing for them.”

However, many developed countries conspicuously left the word “treaty”
out of their statements on the issue.

“It is undeniable that the most important humanitarian work that WIPO
has embarked upon is finding a solution to the problems faced by print
disabled persons in accessing educational works,” the US delegate

The EU, on its part, said that it is “ready to achieve further
convergence in our discussions on a possible international instrument
on limitations for people with print disabilities.”

The SCCR is meeting from 21 November - 2 December. A longer piece on
the committee’s work will be published in the 7 December issue of
Bridges Weekly.

ICTSD reporting.

Manon Anne Ress
Knowledge Ecology International
1621 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009 USA
manon.ress at keionline.org

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