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WIPO Global Meeting on Emerging Copyright Licensing Modalities explores solutions to current issues

The WIPO Global Meeting on Emerging Copyright Licensing Modalities was held in Geneva on November 4 and 5, 2010. Governments, national and international public institutions, academics and an array of stakeholders involved in different copyright licensing practices gathered to discuss problems and identify potential solutions to current issues including the possible role of WIPO in mediation and management of licenses. As described in the WIPO meeting description, the meeting provided “an opportunity for the exchange of national and regional experiences and information on the interplay between copyright and competition policies, examining, among others, licensing practices flowing from different business and management models and the compatibility between traditional licenses and emerging forms of licensing in the new technological environment.” Compelling issues such as access to knowledge, anti-competition, orphan works, and public domain information are all relevant to the work of the world’s libraries.

As the title of the meeting indicates, there was a major emphasis on using licensing in some form to address global copyright issues arising from the Internet and digital technology. The broader title of the meeting, “Facilitating Access to Culture in the Digital Age,” was less fitting because of the tendency to focus on economic benefit rather than cultural benefit. Copyright was often equated with licensing, so a few panelists and attendees attempted to bring attention back to balancing copyrights for both users and creators. Copyright should exist so that both creators and societies profit from works. Even in the tracts dealing with education or research and orphan works, the framework for most speakers was on licensing marketable products. Collective rights management was offered several times as a simple and effective solution for managing the copyrights of creators, and the meeting ended with many speakers encouraging WIPO to create a Global Rights Database.

Although some panelists in academia or state libraries tried to engage discussion about the difficulties institutions experience within the proposed models, there seemed to be an overwhelming perception that current limitations and exceptions for libraries cover whatever is needed for them to operate. Additionally, most participants seemed to neglect to consider how proposed copyright changes, including the proposed licensing models, would impact libraries and educational institutions. Theme IV on research and education provided the audience with an overview of the open access movement and its limitations. Track V dealt with orphan works with collective licensing overwhelmingly suggested as a solution with caveats noted. It was a very good sign that research and education were represented with panelists at this meeting. The participation of library advocacy organizations in discussions with member states provides opportunities for education about remaining issues in limitations and exceptions for libraries and caveats for reliance on collective rights management.

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