Marrakesh Treaty Coming into Force Today

On June 30th this year, Canada became the 20th nation to accede the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, a decision that was said to be “long overdue” The Treaty, originally adopted in Morocco in June 2013, is coming into effect today. “The coming into force of the Treaty will mark the last step of a long journey toward a more inclusive global community, where print-disabled and visually impaired people can more fully and actively participate in society and reach their full potential,” said Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains.

Photo: WIPO - Emmanuel Berrod.
Photo: WIPO – Emmanuel Berrod.

The main objective of the Marrakesh Treaty is to address the “book famine” by facilitating the access of published books by people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. It requires from the countries who signed into the Treaty to have an exception to domestic copyright law for visually impaired and print disabled people. It also focuses on the accessibility of published works by harmonizing limitations and exceptions to the exchange of works across borders. It will hopefully increase the numbers of accessible works over the world. According to the World Blind Union, over 90% of published materials are currently not available to the nearly 300 million people that are blind or have a print disability.

A FAQ was put together by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to explain how the Marrakesh Treaty benefits Canadians

Fair dealing and course packs: Canadian and international challenges

by Sara Bannerman

A draft study by Professor Seng presented last week at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is of particular relevance to Canada, where many universities have recently begun to take the stance that the inclusion of articles or book chapters, for example, in hard copy and electronic course packs, is fair dealing that does not require permission or payment of copyright fees.  Is the Canadian universities’ interpretation of fair dealing in line with the policies adopted in other countries?  Professor Seng’s study sheds some light on this question.  Read my full blog post on this topic here. Chapter 4: “Access to education, libraries, and traditional knowledge” of my book International Copyright and Access to Knowledge addresses the history and present politics of copyright in educational works.

Libraries, archives’ role in making orphan works accessible up for debate at WIPO

Discussion of the internationalization of copyright limitations and exceptions, such as expanded exceptions to copyright for libraries, educational institutions, and people with disabilities, continue this week at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights.

Discussions of access provisions in international copyright have been ongoing since 2004 and have, so far, resulted in the establishment of the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.  Today’s discussions focused on building on the work done under the Marrakesh Treaty to see the possible establishment of an international instrument internationalizing copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives.  International provisions are necessary because, as I note in chapter 4 of my book, International Copyright and Access to Knowledge (Cambridge UP, 2016):

libraries face a number of problems as they attempt to provide both traditional and new services to their users – many related to new technologies. Digitization, license agreements imposed by publishers of electronic journals and books, and Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) all introduce problems of access, preservation,and maintaining copyright exceptions. Moreover, the globalized possibilities of resource sharing, which take place increasingly across borders, are undermined by the territoriality of copyright law. IFLA, the ICA, and others suggest that a treaty is the best way to ensure that a minimum set of limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives exist, and that they apply in cross-border environments. (76)*

One focus of today’s WIPO discussions was on the topic of orphan works, or copyright works where the copyright owner can’t be found.  Libraries and archives are often the “adoptive parents” of orphan works; they are in a position to facilitate access to these works, especially through digital means.  However, copyright regimes often stand in the way, as can differing national regimes.  The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), which is active at the meetings, notes that:

…there is a lot of progress to be made, with as many different copyright regimes there as there are states, each giving different types and degrees of protection if any at all. Moreover, as digital technologies bring about radical change in the information environment, a failure to act is the same as going backwards. This is why IFLA is engaging in support of change both at the global (WIPO) level, and nationally.

Current proposals that are on the table for orphan works (see page 34-39 of the current working document) would allow entities such as libraries to reproduce, make available to the public, and otherwise use orphan works.  Some proposals apply these provisions, as well, to retracted works (African Group, Equador, India), and some would require remuneration to authors or copyright owners who are subsequently identified (Equador).  However, there is no consensus among states on such proposals, with the United States and the European Union among the key detractors.IFLA is asking for “changes which would give libraries the right to work across borders, to give access to orphan works, and to import books which are available in other countries.”  For them, “the goal – an international framework which frees up libraries and librarians – is worth the effort.”  After all, IFLA explains, “it’s through exceptions and limitations to copyright that we can do our job.”

The chair’s summary of today’s discussion is expected to be disseminated tonight.

Tomorrow’s discussions are expected to focus on the internationalization of exceptions and limitations for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities.

For those following the discussion, a number of groups are blogging and tweeting from WIPO:

 Originally posted here.
by Sara Bannerman

WIPO to discuss library and archive copyright provisions

Some interesting proposals will soon be under discussion at the World Intellectual Property Organization that could free libraries, archives, educational and research institutions, and people with disabilities from copyright provisions that hamper their ability to make use of copyright works.

The World Intellectual Property Organization’s committee on copyright meets this upcoming June 29 to July 3.  Three main topics will be under discussion: first, the possible establishment of a treaty granting intellectual property protection for broadcasting organizations; second, the possible establishment of an international instrument setting out copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives; and, third, the possible establishment of an international instrument setting out limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities.[1]

The need for limitations and exceptions by libraries was laid out in 2011 by a number of library organizations, which noted that:

  • preservation of print and digital materials is a matter of increasing concern as “born digital” documents must be retained, print documents must be preserved and sometimes repaired, and digital lock increasingly make the job of preservation difficult or impossible.
  • libraries and archives must increasingly collaborate across institutions and borders, and copyright law must “catch up” to reflect this.

They suggested that an international treaty could enable libraries and archives to better preserve works; to support education, research, private study; and to support people with disabilities in accessing content (p. 5).

Currently two sets of proposals, one by the USA, and the other by the African Group, Brazil, Ecuador, India and Uruguay, are on the table for discussion. Both sets of proposals would:

  • encourage copyright regimes that would enable preservation;
  • encourage legal deposit regimes; and
  • encourage limitations on liability for libraries and archives acting in good faith.

However, the proposals of the African Group, Brazil, Ecuador, India and Uruguay go much further to also encourage countries to enable:

  • acquisition of works by libraries via parallel import where a member state does not provide for international exhaustion;
  • cross-border use of works between library and archive institutions;
  • libraries and archives to reproduce and make available orphan works;
  • circumvention of digital locks for the purposes of making use of limitations and exceptions outlined in the instrument;
  • elimination of the contractual overrideability of limitations and exceptions; and
  • libraries and archives to translate works for the purposes of teaching, scholarship and research.

It is expected that at the next session discussion will continue on these proposals, and that an additional document by the chair will also be discussed (13).

[Original post available here.]

[1] Knowledge Ecology International provides extensive information on the first topic.

The broadcasting discussions have been ongoing for ten years, as was noted by the Brazilian delegate at the last meeting of the committee (Draft report, p. 17).  The latter two sets of discussions have gathered some momentum after the successful adoption of WIPO’s first treaty on limitations and exceptions for the visually impaired.

Peaks and Valleys at WIPO’s Latest SCCR

WIPO’s latest meeting of the SCCR had both failures and successes. Although it was without any agreements on established agenda items, for the second time in a row, the meeting did mark the very first ratification of the Marrakesh treaty.

The meeting of WIPO's twenty-eighth session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights
Photo: WIPO – Emmanuel Berrod

It seems as though a pattern is starting to form in the WIPO’s SCCR where developed countries are resisting efforts made by developing countries to create a copyright environment that will be favourable to their development.  Several developing countries stressed the development aspect of this UN agency in hopes to steer the focus of discussions to issues found in the Development Agenda. “Developing countries are pushing for limitations and exceptions to copyright, developed countries contend that the current copyright system is adequate” (Info Justice).

In order to bypass the refusal of the European Union and other countries to get to a text-based work on libraries and archives, the US delegation was invited by the Chair to present objectives and principles for exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives. The US delegate stated that the proposal was “seeking agreement on basic goals at the international level on which to base further work on national laws” but the EU insisted that they were “not willing to work towards a legally binding instrument” (IP Watch), a position they adopted at the previous meeting of the SCCR. This is troublesome for developing countries that rely mostly on foreign works and who do not have developed and self-sustaining publishing industries.

This position is troublesome to librarians and archivists who are seeking to have updated the legal frameworks that they work within to preserve and acquire works and make them available for education and research. A further issue that they want WIPO to address is that of contract licenses for digital content which often overrides the exceptions and limitations currently being discussed within the SCCR. “Collectively, libraries today spend billions of dollars each year on licensed digital content” according to the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA).  Ellen Broad, the manager of digital projects at IFLA said that “amounts spent on content differ dramatically” while Simonetta Vezzoso, copyright consultant at the Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (Italy) added that “There is little transparency in costs across suppliers” (IP Watch).

Despite setbacks however, India became the first country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty. “We congratulate India on its ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty and hope this ratification will be the first of many,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “When the Marrakesh Treaty takes effect, the lives of people who are visually impaired around the world will be enriched” Gurry Said (AG-IP News). The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled seeks to, as the name suggests, facilitate the production, dissemination and exchange of works for “persons who are blind, visually impaired, or reading disabled or persons with a physical disability that prevents them from holding and manipulating a book” (WIPO). The treaty will come into force once 20 ratifications have been presented to WIPO.

In addition, the Accessible Books Consortium was launched and is tasked with increasing the number of accessible books “for use by hundreds of millions of people around the globe who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled, most of whom live in less-developed regions” (WIPO). According to WIPO, ABC was created to help increase access to works by print disabled individuals through work in three areas: “the sharing of technical skills in developing and least developed countries to produce and distribute books in accessible formats, promoting inclusive publishing, and building an international database and book exchange of accessible books”.