EU favours licensing over copyright reform for libraries in latest international negotiations

The 26th meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright & Related Rights (SCCR) closed just before midnight on Friday 20th December, following five days of discussion of copyright protections for broadcasting, exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives, and for education.

This was the first meeting during which exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives were discussed in depth by Member States, with two days dedicated to going through topics in working document SCCR/26/3.

At the end of the two days, key supporters of a legally binding instrument on copyright exceptions for libraries and archives had emerged, particularly within GRULAC (Latin America and Caribbean countries) and the African Group, while developed countries, like the EU and Central Eastern European and Baltic States, expressed strong opposition to focus on this area.

As discussions on conclusions for SCCR 26 stretched late into the evening on December 20th, the treaty on broadcasting emerged as the preferred priority for SCCRs in 2014 among developed countries. Nonetheless, a number of countries, particularly Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Algeria, Egypt, India and Trinidad & Tobago, worked hard to ensure that exceptions for libraries and archives, and for education, remained firmly on the agenda  for discussion at SCCRs in 2014.

Recognising the importance of ongoing attention to copyright exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives, GRULAC and the African Group supported the convening of an intersessional meeting on this topic between the 27th and 28th meetings of the SCCR in 2014. This proposal was endorsed by South Africa, India and Brazil, alongside other delegations. However, final agreement on the proposed intersessional specifically for libraries and archives has been postponed until the 27th meeting of the SCCR.

The conclusions reached with respect to libraries and archives indicate the SCCR continues to work towards submitting recommendations on limitations and exceptions for these sectors to the General Assembly by the 28th session of the SCCR (July 2014). You can read conclusions in full on the topic of libraries and archives from SCCR 26 here.

The major disappointment for libraries at SCCR 26 has been the refusal of the EU and Central Eastern European and Baltic States to engage substantively in discussion of exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives, or entertain the possibility of an instrument in this area. While the European Commission invites views at the regional level on the adequacy of copyright exceptions in the digital environment, at SCCR the EU has already made up its mind: only licensing solutions will be palatable. This position willfully disregards the failures of the recent Licences for Europe consultation, which demonstrated emphatically that a solely license-based approach to new uses and technologies is not the way forward. Libraries and archives in the EU must work together to push for a more flexible EU position at WIPO.

The United States also expressed support for the inclusion of licensing on the SCCR’s agenda at future meetings.

While IFLA is disappointed to see broadcasting take precedence in 2014 over exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives, library delegations will be working hard with their regional communities to produce effective and targeted information to assist negotiations, and advocate at the national level.

IFLA’s statement on copyright exceptions and limitations for libraries made during SCCR 26 is available here.