What Happened at the 25th Session of the SCCR?

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

As September closes and October fast approaches, so too does the date for the next session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR).  Although the 26th session is not going to be held until December 16th to 20th of this year, many member states have reportedly already begun preparing for the meeting.  As such, in preparation for this important event, we have worked to create an account of what happened at the previous session of the SCCR in order to better prepare readers of what is going to be discussed in Geneva this December.

At the 25th session of the SCCR the committee adopted the draft text on and International Instrument/treaty on limitations and exceptions for visually impaired persons with print disabilities, and recommended that the instrument/treaty be evaluated at an extraordinary meeting of the WIPO General Assembly.  This was to decide whether or not the General Assembly would hold a diplomatic conference in 2013 to adopt the treaty/instrument in question, which did in fact happen, resulting in the diplomatic conference recently held this summer in Marrakesh. The committee noted that significant progress had been made in coming up with this draft treaty as this was one of the first of its kind to focus on increasing access to copyrighted works rather than limiting it, as well as the fact that it represented a historic victory for the human rights of print disabled peoples across the globe. Nonetheless, this is not to say that the draft text that was to eventually become the Marrakesh treaty was not been subject to change since the 25th session of the SCCR and the signing at the Marrakesh conference.

In regards to these additional deliberations, the committee held one special session from February 18th to 22nd of this year and one informal session in April from the 18th to the 20th in preparation for the Marrakesh conference.

The first of these additional meetings, while reported to have yielded significant progress was also reported to be slowed by the fact that committee had encountered difficulties in regards to agreeing on various aspects of the treaty and how that would come into conflict with Article 9(2) of the Berne Convention.  A particular situation that was raised was the creation of new technologies for the visually impaired not anticipated by the treaty and how that would interact with the three-step test, which is a major point of division between developed and developing countries because of the technological divide that exists between the two, and the fact that there are more print disabled peoples in the  developing world than the developed world.  Nevertheless, the committee agreed to meet again in April to finalize aspects of the treaty that were still not yet agreed upon.  Upon meeting again in April, the committee eventually came to an agreement on a working treaty, which could then be sent to the Preparatory Committee to adopt the document as a proposal for the Substantive Provisions of the treaty to be considered by the diplomatic conference in Marrakesh.

At the 25th session of the SCCR, the protection of broadcasting organizations was the next item to be addressed by the committee. It was decided that additional time was needed in order to come to an agreement on a working document for numerous reasons.  One such reason that was often cited by delegates was the desire to devote more time to the discussion of technological aspects of the treaty.

The proposed document is the first international amendment to the state of protection of broadcasting organizations since the Rome Convention of 1961.  Although there had been small amendments made regarding the protection and limitations of broadcasting organizations, such as the Brussels convention of 1974 which dealt with satellite transmissions, there has not been a significant discussion of the state of international copyright and related rights for broadcasting organizations in quite a long time.  The need to address the issue of copyright reform has thus been an issue  for the SCCR for quite awhile, arguably decades when one considers how much broadcasting practices have changed since the early 1960s.   As a matter of fact, this was something that was pointed out by the Mexican delegation, which mentioned that the discussion had actually been on the agenda for the last fourteen years but had yet to be addressed.

Ultimately, it was decided by the committee, regardless of the time that has passed, that a discussion on technological issues was needed to speed up the process of deliberating the working treaty/instrument on this matter.  Indeed, as the question of how computer networks and future technology do and will affect the intellectual property rights of the broadcasting organizations, the artists and authors that work with them, and their audiences becomes increasingly important so too does the need to address the aspects of intellectual property law that they will undoubtedly change.  Consequentially, this led to the committee to establish an informal meeting to discuss this.

Another item that was to be deliberated upon was the working document for limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives.  As a cornerstone of public access to information, all delegates agreed that the issue was of great importance, but unfortunately there was no consensus to be had regarding the instrument/treaty.  Many delegates expressed the desire to come up with a document that would increase access to copyrighted material for libraries and archives, however there was no agreement regarding even how the committee would incorporate the textual suggestions made by the delegations of each member state.  It was because of this divergence in opinion, combined with the little time that was left at the current session that treaty did not see too much significant progress.

Finally, the last item on the agenda was the Provisional Working Document towards an Appropriate International Legal Instrument (in whatever form) on Limitations and Exceptions for Educational, Teaching and Research Institutions and Persons with other Disabilities containing Comments and Textual Suggestions.  Similar to the decision regarding the draft instrument/treaty for libraries and archives, the committee decided that it would be best to examine the issue in greater depth as greater attention was needed in regards to the text-based deliberations needed to produce a working document by the deadline of the 30th session of the SCCR

It was originally decided at the 25th session of the SCCR that the next official meeting was to be held in July 2013, however in July it was reported that  that the meeting would be postponed until December.  Until then, more information regarding the 25th session of the SCCR, along with all working documents and reports of inter-sessional and informal meetings, can be found on the WIPO website.  We hope to also provide more information in the coming months as the 25th session draws nearer.