No. 26
September 2012
International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property
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A new copyright work plan for educational purposes at WIPO
Matthias Gottschalk, Secretary, Copyright Committee (Q226), Zürich, Switzerland

On July 25th, 2012, the 24th Session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) at WIPO, Geneva, was concluded. As was the case during the diplomatic conference in China leading to the Beijing Treaty on audiovisual performances, the participation rate was high. In addition to the majority of the WIPO member states, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, including the AIPPI, were present at the 24th Session of the SCCR.


The 24th Session of the SCCR continued the work already begun during previous sessions. The following topics were discussed: Limitations and exceptions regarding educational research and research institutions and persons with other disabilities; limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, limitations and exceptions for visually impaired persons/persons with print disabilities and the protection of broadcasting organizations.

The key issue

Developing countries, in particular Africa and South America, have claimed that uncertainty regarding the legality of cross border activities (such as downloading of copyrighted materials) would undermine the development and use of new technologies and services (such as distant-learning services) which can potentially improve the life of the visually impaired/persons with p rinting abilities. Therefore, appropriate copyright exemptions and limitations would be needed to improve such access. However, representatives of states with a long tradition of creating and distributing copyrighted materials have argued that a balance should be maintained between the rights of the authors (and the incentive provided by copyright law) on the one hand and the public interest that people with disabilities have access to copyrighted works. No agreement was reached during the 24th session regarding the appropriate legal instrument to address the issues discussed. While the developing countries are aiming for an international legal treaty, such as the Beijing Treaty on all Visual Performances, which was concluded at the diplomatic conference in China in June 2012, the United States and the European Union have suggested appropriate alternative measures to improve such access.

Further proceedings

The SCCR in its 24th Session has agreed a working plan regarding the various issues discussed in the context of internationally acknowledged limitations and exceptions. The discussion on limitations and exceptions for visually impaired persons/persons with print disabilities (VIP) will continue in the 25th Session of the SCCR, scheduled for November 2012, with the aim to conclude or advance substantially a proposal for the General Assembly of the WIPO. Furthermore, according to the work schedule, the issue of additional protection for Broadcasting Organizations is on the agenda for 2014. Limitations and exceptions with respect to libraries and archives are scheduled to be discussed during the SCCR session in 2014. Limitations and exceptions with respect to education and research institutions and persons with other disabilities shall be on the SCCR-agenda for 2015.


While a majority of the SCCR-members seems to agree on improved access by visually impaired persons/persons with print disabilities to copyrighted work, an agreement has yet to be found as to the appropriate legal instruments to achieve that goal. While developing countries are pushing towards an international treaty, countries representing major copyright proprietors, such as the United States and the European Community, insisted that the work plan specifically leaves open the questions regarding the appropriate legal instrument. Furthermore, some concerns have been uttered that any exceptions and limitations, which may be agreed by the SCCR-members for the benefit of the visually impaired persons, may be used as a precedent by developing countries to introduce limitations and exceptions in other areas as well.

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