High Expectations This Week For Progress On Exceptions And Limitations At WIPO 22/06/2010 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Limitations and exceptions are once again a major topic at the UN intellectual property organisation’s meeting on copyrights and related rights. Delegations this week are discussing several draft proposals to improve access, in particular for visually impaired people, each with their own set of recommendation. With a fourth and new proposal from the African countries on the table, delegates are meeting to try to find common ground, raising the expectations of civil society. The 20th World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) runs from 21-24 June. The discussions on the agenda item on exceptions and limitations were expected to begin this afternoon, following regular agenda items on a treaty on broadcasters’ rights and a treaty on audiovisual performances. At previous WIPO meetings (IPW, WIPO, 22 December 2009), the possible creation of a treaty on exceptions and limitations for visually impaired persons was supported by many members, with a proposal submitted by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay. The United States also previously made a strong statement in support of an international consensus in favour of the initiative, but some members had reservations, such as the European Union, calling for some fact-findings to determine if copyright was really limiting access to reading material. The African Group previously suggested that the issue of the visually impaired should not outshine other exceptions and limitations, such as for library, archives, education, and research. This week, a new proposal was submitted by the African Group calling for a new WIPO treaty containing broader limitations and exceptions than the previous proposal supported by Latin American countries. The African Group proposal is based not only on exceptions and limitations for visually impaired people, but also for education and research institutions, libraries and archive centres. In addition to the African Group proposal, there are three other proposals up for discussion. The proposal of Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay from the May 2009 session of the SCCR is still on the table, and is backed by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC). It suggests the adoption of an international treaty that would facilitate access for the blind, visually impaired and people with reading disabilities, including text from the World Blind Union. Following their proposal, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico (who joined later) and Paraguay provided a timetable for the adoption of the WIPO treaty they proposed. The timetable projects negotiations on the treaty until June 2011 and the actual adoption of the treaty by spring 2012. Members of GRULAC and African Group members discussed among themselves in the early going this week how they might bring their proposals closer together, as there is a difference on whether to proceed with the print-disabled treaty first or all limitations and exceptions at the same time. Some observers are concerned that the visually impaired treaty could move forward and might get bogged if tied to other issues that could be addressed afterward instead, while others are concerned that the other issues will never get addressed if not now. The United States also recently proposed a draft “consensus instrument” concerning persons with disabilities (IPW, WIPO, 28 May 2010). And the European Union drafted a joint recommendation on increasing the number and range of accessible format works available to people with a print disability, “to the extent that there is no appropriate commercial product on offer,” according to the joint recommendation. The proposals are available here. The agenda of the Standing Committee also includes protection of broadcasting organisations and the protection of audiovisual performances, which were discussed during the first two days this week. Great Opportunity, World Blind Union Says The fact that there are four proposals at the same time is a great opportunity, Maryanne Diamond, president of the World Blind Union told a side event to the SCCR today. The process is speeding up, said José López de León of the Mexican mission, with now four proposals coming from different regions with different perspectives on the problem. Before negotiations started in the plenary meeting, side talks were taking place among different regions seeking common points of interests, he said. According to Judit Rius Sanjuan of Knowledge Ecology International, which organised the side event, “this is an historical moment.” Two key elements for better access to copyrighted material for blind and other print-disabled people are the international harmonisation on limitations and exceptions, which would ensure applications at the national level. This would remedy the situation in countries without exceptions for visually impaired people and harmonise the different legislations in countries currently with exceptions, creating similar norms and more legal certainty, she said. The second key element is to solve cross-border shipment of goods issues. The ultimate goal is to achieve a legally binding norm in the area of limitations and exceptions, said a participant from the US National Federation of the Blind. There is a need “to push for a process where we put the various proposals on the table,” and evaluate their merits and see where there is common ground, he said. Another key to the process is to have a firm timeline but “there is a true opportunity to take a major step forward this week,” he said. Most speakers at the side event commented positively on the fact that four proposals were now up for discussion. Diamond said it is a good sign there is a desire to solve the problem, and an opportunity to get the best from each of them. William New contributed to this story. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."High Expectations This Week For Progress On Exceptions And Limitations At WIPO" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.