Library Copyright Alliance Touts Copyright Exceptions at International Assembly

WIPO InteriorFor the last four years, advancement towards more flexible copyright law continues in earnest at the World Intellectual Property Organization’s 24th Copyright and Related Rights Standing Committee session (SCCR), which started on July 16, 2012, and will continue through July 25, 2012, in Geneva, Switzerland. The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), represented by international copyright advocate and librarian, Lori Driscoll, is carrying the message that copyright exceptions for libraries ensure a vibrant arena for the creation and use of creative works as well as the advancement of learning.

Other library organizations attendees, such as the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), are working as well, and with LCA, influence the WIPO copyright agenda in powerful ways. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), known for its pro-rights holder inclination, is devoting more than half of its program to advance balanced international copyright law by discussing exceptions and limitations for libraries, education, and for people with print disabilities. Because U.S. copyright law is one of the most flexible copyright laws in the world, member nations of WIPO are eager to hear from U.S. libraries and to learn from our experiences.

The first agenda item discussed thus far at the ten-day session is copyright limitations and exceptions for educational institutions. In her statement (pdf), Driscoll pointed out that U.S. libraries and educational institutions are inherently linked and that without existing exceptions in the law, the advancement of education, scholarship and research would not be possible. Conversely, Driscoll warned the assembly that license terms and use of technological protection measures can inhibit educational progress in the digital era.

In the next seven days, the SCCR will turn their attention to library exceptions and an international treaty for a copyright exception for people with print disabilities. At diplomatic conferences such as WIPO, new treaties or resolutions advance at a slow pace, but the exceptional energy directed towards the rights of users of information is progressing steadily.

The Library Copyright Alliance is a coalition of the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). LCA represents over 100,000 libraries and 350,000 employees including those at public schools, colleges, and research institutions in the United States and Canada.

Carrie Russell is the Director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP). Her portfolio includes copyright, international copyright, accessibility, e-books and other public policy issues. She has a MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a MA in media arts from the University of Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at crussell@alawash.org.

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