WIPO Still On Course For Instruments On Copyright Exceptions, BroadcastingPublished on 26 July 2012 @ 10:27 am
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
The World Intellectual Property Organization late last night reached agreement on a timeline for completing treaties – or instruments – on a range of copyright exceptions, including the possibility of a high-level negotiation for visually impaired and blind readers in 2013. Updated.
“We consider this as a very important moment in the history of WIPO,” the Brazilian delegate said in closing remarks, referring particularly to the action on visually impaired. “The organisation is moving in the right way to create an enabling environment … and providing equality of rights.”
Chile, which initiated the discussions on limitations and exceptions at WIPO several years ago, echoed this view.
The 24th WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) met from 16-25 July.
The meeting addressed emerging instruments on broadcasters’ rights, and exceptions for visually impaired persons, libraries and archives, and educational and research institutions.
The conclusions document from the meeting shows the timelines of the different topics over the next biennium. The conclusions document is available here [pdf].
On the visually impaired, it was agreed to hold an inter-sessional meeting after the 1-9 October annual WIPO General Assembly and before the next SCCR, which will be held from 19-23 November.
In December, an extraordinary General Assembly will be held to decide whether the visually impaired issue is ready to move to a diplomatic conference (a high-level negotiation) in 2013.
It was not agreed whether the outcome of the visually impaired negotiations is intended to be a treaty or something softer, like recommendations or a declaration. Also the latest text on the visually impaired, SCCR/24/9, now shows brackets around a large amount of text that was not agreed.
On broadcasting, work will now proceed on a single text with the aim of deciding on a diplomatic conference in 2014.
An agenda item was added to the SCCR to assess implementation of the Development Agenda.
Progress was also made in the other areas of limitations and exceptions.
The latest available version of the working document on limitations and exceptions for educational, teaching, and research institutions, Rev. 5, is available here [pdf].
On the exception for libraries and archives, library associations eIFL and IFLA were pleased with the adoption of the document SCCR/23/8 (from the last SCCR meeting), with added proposals from the African Group, as the working document. And they were pleased about the setting of a timeline and a workplan to submit recommendations by 2014 (by the 28th SCCR). They had thought it would be useful to have an intersessional meeting on this issue as well, like the visually impaired negotiations, they said.
But the libraries were “very disappointed” about the outcome of the visually impaired talks, as they were “expecting more concrete conclusions,” they said. The librarians groups cited a “lack of certainty” about the ability to conclude the language by SCCR 25 (in November).
Separately, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) (which represents libraries in North America) offered a series of comments on the provisional working document under consideration in the SCCR. LCA submitted 10 recommendations, including broad exceptions for preservation, reproduction, public lending, parallel importation, cross-border use, orphan works, technological measures, as well as to limit liability and support freedom of contract.
India called the outcome a “great achievement” in the “spirit of Beijing,” referring to last month’s agreement on the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances.
“We have preserved equal treatment” of the different subjects, a member of the African Group said afterward. The agreement “recognises the levels of maturity” of the instruments. Africa has consistently sought to advance all exceptions and limitations
Developed countries did not offer closing remarks in plenary, and declined to speak to reporters afterward.
The meeting chair, noting the late hour, said in closing, “It was hard work to reach some convergence.”
During the week, the US and European Union were strongly criticised by advocates for the blind and knowledge access for not pushing for quick progress on a treaty for the visually impaired, which many saw as within the committee’s reach this week.
Justin Hughes, who led the US delegation, told Intellectual Property Watch afterward, referring to the visually impaired text: “We’re pleased with the outcome. The working document itself is built on the collaborative efforts of Brazil, the EU, Mexico, the US, and the Africa Group – so we are happy that this is moving forward.”
“Everyone’s big concern is the number of ‘brackets’ – that is, undecided issues – in the text,” Hughes said. “We have a lot of work to do in the fall to get the balance right, but we also have a lot of goodwill among the member states to get there.”
But advocates for the blind were disappointed by the outcome. A World Blind Union (WBU) representative said they were “disappointed that a programme to finish a text or nearly finish a text didn’t materialise.” The WBU also was disappointed that conclusions did not call for a diplomatic conference in 2013, but rather just left a decision to be made.
Knowledge Ecology International said that while the outcome on the visually impaired sets the stage for a diplomatic conference in 2013 – which KEI President James Love called “very likely” – “the positions of the US and the EU were controlled by big publishing corporations at this meeting.”
KEI noted the contrast between the difficulty in getting agreement in the SCCR to declare that the negotiation to address the shortage of access to reading material faced by the blind and other print-disabled, and the relative ease with which an industry-oriented issue of broadcasters’ rights became recognised as a treaty negotiation.
“Apparently WIPO has one standard for the one percent, and other for blind people,” Love wrote.
William New may be reached at email@example.com.