WIPO Copyright Committee Tackles Visually Impaired Access, Other ExceptionsPublished on 8 November 2010 @ 3:34 pm
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
The World Intellectual Property Organization Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) is meeting this week in an attempt to advance proposals to improve global access to copyrighted works, following a disappointing summer meeting that ended without agreement. This week’s meeting also includes renewed discussions of proposed treaties on broadcasters’ rights and rights over audiovisual performances.
Participants asked before today’s opening plenary session declined to place high expectations of a breakthrough agreement on differences such as how to move forward on a proposed treaty increasing visually impaired readers’ access to online books, while not leaving behind other exceptions and limitations to copyright such as the needs of libraries. The SCCR is meeting from 8-12 November.
Still, there was hope that progress would be made on these proposals, as well as on broadcasting and audiovisual performances.
“We’ll see in this meeting if there is progress” on limitations and exceptions, SCCR Chair Jukka Liedes told Intellectual Property Watch. “We should have the opportunity to discuss all the proposals.”
He noted that in the committee, preparation for treaty negotiations “has always taken time.” Liedes has chaired the committee for over a decade, in which time failed attempts at diplomatic conferences (the highest-level treaty negotiations) occurred on the broadcasting (2007) and audiovisual (2000) treaties [corrected].
“We are just beginning to look at the proposals (on exceptions and limitations),” Liedes said. “We don’t know when there will be agreement.” But, he added, “I am an optimist.”
But proponents of greater access to reading material for the blind and visually impaired have expressed a sense of urgency in negotiations as the limited access is considered to be of crisis proportions.
At the last SCCR meeting in June, the most debated issue was copyright exceptions and limitations, with four proposals submitted by delegations (IPW, WIPO, 22 June 2010). Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Mexico suggested the adoption of an international treaty to facilitate access for the visually impaired persons (based on a World Blind Union proposal), the African Group proposal offered a broader perspective, the United States proposed a “draft consensus instrument,” and the European Union has suggested a draft joint recommendation.
The African Group, which has an interest in including broader exceptions and limitations, submitted a proposal in June including exceptions and limitations for education and research institutions, libraries, and archive centres (IPW, Copyright, 26 June 2010).
There is a possibility of some discussion during the week about ways to link together the exceptions, broadcasting and audiovisual issues, according to several sources, but it is unclear how this could be achieved.
William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.