Nigeria Ratifies Copyright Treaties while the IGC Attempts to Reach Agreement on Proposals

As the UN World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) General Assembly gets underway and the budget for the upcoming biennium is determined, there are two developments that occurred during the first week of meetings that are worth mentioning: (1) Nigeria’s ratification of WIPO copyright treaties and (2) the debates surrounding the interpretation of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore’s (IGC) proposed programme of work.

As of October 4th, 2017, Nigeria has adopted and ratified the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (Marrakesh Treaty), and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (Beijing Treaty). Audu Ayinla Kadiri, a Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva stated that “we [Nigeria] have a very creative Nollywood industry, we have young and enterprising entrepreneurs, we have new businesses coming up here and there, we have a lot of innovative hubs in Nigeria. So, these treaties will serve as a boost to all these trends, which are very positive”.

As discussed in our previous post, the Delegation of Senegal on behalf of the African Group submitted a proposal for the IGC regarding a potential work program for the 2018/19 Biennium. In addition to this, the European Union (EU) created a proposal as well for the mandate of the IGC. The main differences between the two proposals are that The African Group’s proposal “envisages the convening of a high-level negotiating meeting (diplomatic conference) in the first quarter of 2019 to conclude and adopt a legally binding instrument to protect genetic resources”, whereas the EU proposal “is based on further studies and examples of national experiences to narrow gaps on core issues, such as definitions, subject matter, objectives, and the relationship with the public domain”. More importantly, the EU proposal states that until everything in its proposed mandate is accepted, it will be understood that nothing has been accepted. This has led to a contention amongst member states—particularly developing countries—on how to interpret and adopt the EU proposal’s core premises.

The IGC will aim to reach an agreement on the proposal’s main objectives and will report its progress in 2019.

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

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.

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