Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Discussions of possible new WIPO treaties for schools, libraries, visually impaired underway

This week at WIPO member-states are gathering for the twice-yearly meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR).  The SCCR is one of the most important bodies at WIPO, since it is tasked with the early work in the formulation of possible copyright-related treaties. 

The SCCR's work recently led to the conclusion of a new Audiovisual Performances Treaty (the Beijing Treaty) which ended speculation that WIPO was no longer able to conclude treaties.  (It had not done so since the conclusion of the WIPO Internet Treaties in the 90s.)  In fact, as Michael Geist observes, WIPO was able to conclude this treaty in a far more transparent manner than has been the case for other recent treaties, such as ACTA and the TPP, which have recently hit roadblocks

The Beijing Treaty was in fact only the first of a suite of new treaties under discussion at WIPO.  (See IPW's coverage.)  Those next on the agenda include treaties on copyright limitations and exceptions, or what are referred to in Canada as 'user's rights'.  Specifically, three new possible treaties are under discussion:
  1. a treaty for the visually impaired and print-disabled users; 
  2. a treaty for educational and research institutions; 
  3. and a treaty for libraries and archives. 

Any one of these would represent the first time that a WIPO treaty has been primarily focussed on ensuring that a minimum set of rights are granted to users of copyright works, as opposed to the rights of copyright holders. 

Canada's recent Supreme Court Decisions on copyright, released July 12, have reportedly come under discussion at the SCCR meetings.  While the Canadian delegation has repordedly not yet spoken on the issue at the SCCR, the recent decisions of the Canadian Supreme Court have been raised by other actors.  The African Group, according to IPW, suggested - in a proposal that seems inspired by and in line with the Canadian Supreme Court's K-12 ruling -  that individuals and institutes should be authorised "to distribute a copy or copies of all or part of the work, including making available to pupils or students, the originals or copies thereof the work, or copies when these are necessary to illustrate the teaching." 

The possible treaty on limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions currently under discussion at WIPO should be of particular interest not only to Canada's educational and research institutions as they grapple with the post-Supreme Court-decision environment, but also to those worldwide.  It would seem important for such institutions to follow what is happening at WIPO and to ensure that their proposals and interests are brought forward to the discussions.While many groups and international NGOs have been involved in the WIPO discussions of a possible treaty for the visually impaired and print-disabled, it is equally important for educational and research institutions, and library and archives communities, to be involved in ensuring that their concerns and environments are taken into account in discussions that could eventually set new norms worldwide.

Meeting documents are available here.  The current session, now webcasting is here, along with webcasting/recorded video link and links to documents containing possible treaty language.

Update: new IPW post here