EU rejects international solution to library and archive copyright problems; causes collapse of WIPO meeting



Discussions by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright & Related Rights (SCCR) broke down in the early hours of Saturday morning 3 May, after the European Union (EU) attempted to block future discussion of copyright laws to aid libraries and archives fulfill their missions in the digital environment.

Library and archive delegations from Europe, Latin America, Africa, Australia, the United States, Canada and the UK attended the 27th meeting of the SCCR from 28 April – 2 May 2014, to push for an international treaty to help libraries and archives preserve cultural heritage, facilitate access to essential information by people wherever they are in the world.

The meeting ended in disarray at 1:30am on Saturday morning, after the EU tried to have crucial references to “text-based” work on copyright exceptions removed from the meeting conclusions - a move viewed by other Member States and library and archive NGOs present as an attempt to delay, if not derail, any progress on copyright exceptions at WIPO. 

Library and archive organisations who were present at the 27th meeting of the SCCR have since put on a joint press release ( expressing their frustration and disappointment with the EU, and rallying European libraries and archives to reach out to their policy makers to ask the EU to take a more nuanced approach uuto the discussions.

The EU’s attempt to sideline discussion of copyright exceptions for libraries and archives, and on education, at WIPO is particularly concerning in light of the ongoing consultation on copyright laws at the EU level. IFLA put in a response to the EU Copyright Consultationwhich focused on challenges for libraries providing access to their collections across country borders, to foster international research, scholarly collaboration and cultural preservation.

A number of countries spoke up in strong support of copyright exceptions for libraries and archives during the meeting, and stood firmly against the EU during conclusions, including Brazil, India, Uruguay, the African Group, the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC) and Iran.

Prior to the collapse of the Committee, libraries and archives took part in a productive week of discussions, both on broadcasting and on copyright exceptions. The Chairman of the SCCR, Mr. Martin Moscoso (Peru) invited libraries and archives present to add their views to discussions on topics including licensing, parallel importation, cross border activities, limits on liability for libraries, orphan works and technological protection measures. Interventions by organisations can be read here. These interventions were well received by Member States, with several commenting on the usefulness of examples and case studies of challenges being faced by organisations due to copyright laws to contribute to their understanding. You can read IFLA’s interventions at SCCR 27 here

In the joint media release, IFLA Deputy Secretary General Stuart Hamilton spoke of IFLA’s serious disappointment in the EU’s stance at WIPO:

“For the past three years, Member States have been looking at draft texts on copyright exceptions for libraries and archives. The EU is now trying to pretend these don’t exist. We’re frustrated, and deeply disappointed. It appears the EU came to WIPO with one goal in mind: to kill the discussion.”

The next meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) takes place from June 30 – July 4. In the absence of conclusions from SCCR 27, following the break down of discussions, SCCR 28 promises to be consumed with discussions of the SCCR’s future workplan with the Committee set to make general recommendations to the WIPO General Assembly in September 2014.

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