News from the GA Floor: The Marrakesh Treaty – Upcoming Signatories

WIPO delegates at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights. (Photo: IFLA)

The 2013 WIPO General Assembly is currently well underway in Geneva, and a number of interesting and insightful developments have already taken place thus far. This past Wednesday, the assembly opened up item 31 on the agenda, or the “Report on the Outcome of the Marrakesh Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities” (the Marrakesh Treaty for short). The full webcast of this item can be found on the WIPO website, under video A/51-Wed 25- English: Afternoon Session. As many delegates made a point to highlight, this is indeed a historic treaty in many respects, and has been seen by many as a great triumph for WIPO, the multi-lateral system, and the international community.

The representative from Algeria pointed out that this was the first time that the WIPO had adopted a treaty which established exceptions and limitations to the international copyright system (video A/51-Wed 25- English: Afternoon Session @ 35:20). Morocco, the Member State which hosted the successful conference this past June, further stressed that this was also the first time that the WIPO organized an event within both and Arab country, and an Arab city (video A/51-Wed 25- English: Afternoon Session @16:24). Many delegates stressed that this new treaty was both a fair and balanced instrument, which could profit society as a whole, while adequately protecting the rights of authors and IP owners worldwide.

As with any voluntary legal instrument or treaty, however, it’s only as good as the commitment it inspires. Many delegates, and particularly Brazil, representing the Development Agenda Group (DAG) (video A/51-Wed 25- English: Afternoon Session @30:40), used this opportunity to take the floor and remind the assembly that a strong implementation would need to follow, and that words must then be followed by actions. It also still needs to be signed and ratified by a minimum of twenty eligible Member States. As of last Wednesday, during its discussion on the floor of the General Assembly, the number of signatory countries was 54. Hopefully, that number will soon rise, as a number of countries used the opportunity to announced their intent to sign within the near future. The countries which announced themselves nearly ready to take the jump and become signatories where India (video A/51-Wed 25- English: Afternoon Session @23:44), The United States (video A/51-Wed 25- English: Afternoon Session @33:30), the European Union and  Argentina (video A/51-Wed 25- English: Afternoon Session @42:35).

This is big news when one considers where the majority of most intellectual property content resides, and bodes well for the future of this promising document. But while some delegates, such as the one from the United States stated that they would be ready to sign within a matter of weeks, other delegates, such as the one from the EU remained more vague in their deadline.

The treaty will remain open to signing for one year following its adoption, which occurred on June 27, 2013. To see a regularly updated list of the countries who are already signatories of the treaty, follow the link here.