In our capacity of permanent observers of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, we are attending the 36th session of the Committee, which is taking place in Geneva from 28 May to 1 June 2018.
The following is the general statement made by Teresa Nobre on our behalf on the issue of exceptions and limitations to copyright, which compose agenda itens 6 (Limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives) and 7 (Limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities):
I’m speaking on behalf of COMMUNIA International Association on the Digital Public Domain.
The normative work of this Committee towards the grant of exclusive rights over copyrighted works and related subject matter has been exemplary. One would expect that users rights would have by now been subject to similar legislative efforts. However, the Member States that already benefit from sophisticated copyright exceptions and limitations, have been reluctant to make a convergence of laws, suggesting that the protection of public interests such as access to knowledge and education deserve less international attention that the protection of the private interests of copyright holders.
We recall that the European Union will soon adopt a mandatory exception for various uses, which will harmonize the laws of 28 European countries, despite their different traditions. This means that agreeing on minimum standards is possible, while still taking into account local specificities.
The reason why the EU is harmonizing national laws is very straightforward: the EU countries have such narrower exceptions that they are making illegal legitimate practices that take place on a daily basis, such as showing a Youtube video in class or emailing short copyrighted materials to students.
We are well aware that the industry claims that the needs of the global community of educators, learners and researchers can be solved through licensing. If that was the case, we would not be here, since there are currently no laws preventing parties from entering into licensing agreements.
The fact is that licenses are, first of all, expensive: 1/3 of European teachers surveyed by the European Commission said that they or their schools could not afford to buy educational licenses. Furthermore, we did a study on educational licenses in Europe and discovered that the current contractual practices are not commendable: licenses (i) restrict the scope of protection of exceptions, (ii) grant questionable rights to right holders, and (iii) impose burdensome obligations on schools.Without legislative intervention, fair educational and research activities that take place locally but also across borders will continue to be harmed.
Therefore, we urge this Committee to agree on action plans that are aimed at finding a model for a minimum harmonization in the field of exceptions and limitations to copyright.