Thursday, January 18, 2007

eIFL Statement at WIPO SCCR

The Electronic Information for Libraries (eIFL) have just made an eloquent and succinct statement to the WIPO committee considering the broadcast treaty, the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights. I hope the eIFL folks don't mind me reproducing it in full here (via the A2K list):

Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries

Electronic Information for Libraries (eIFL) and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) have argued in our previous statements that any draft treaty on the protection of broadcast organisations limits itself to its intent i.e. to prohibit signal piracy. We welcome the endeavours in the Chairs discussion non-paper that the focus should be set on the protection of the live signal and on signal theft.

Both our organisations support the Joint Statement of Certain Civil Society, Private Sector and Rightsholder Representatives. Point three of the statement argues that any treaty that allows for broader rights must be accompanied by an equally broad set of mandatory exceptions and limitations. We believe that this is a time consuming task for the purposes of this draft treaty and in the signal based approach, it is unnecessary.

The alternative rights based approach would involve crafting appropriate exceptions and limitations, an increasingly complex task for the digital age. Today we live in a global digital environment. But the exceptions and limitations with which we work were developed in an analogue world. They are paperbound. The basic format for most content has become digital. Librarians find themselves struggling with unsuitable exceptions and limitations to adequately deliver content and services in the digital age. Nowadays, libraries must adopt sometimes absurd practices in order to comply with copyright law. Libraries services are stymied when they should be expanding and developing in response to new technologies. Analysis and guidance on the issues is necessary.

The agreed statement to Article 10 of the WIPO Copyright Treaty, which states that Member States may extend existing exceptions and limitations to the digital environment and may devise new exceptions appropriate to the digital network environment, was an attempt to provide a remedy to such future issues. Ten years on, we believe that the problems faced by libraries have become too complex to be properly addressed by this general statement expressing an intention.

Exceptions and limitations are being undermined in substance because they are bound to an ageing technology. As a result of the change in format from print to digital, libraries have largely become subject to contract law instead of copyright law. Libraries experience on a daily basis how exceptions and limitations are being undermined in principle by contracts which seek to override statutory exceptions and limitations and are enforced by technological protection measures. We believe that this serves to undermine copyright law itself. Analysis and guidance on the issues is necessary.

This is why we welcome the initiative of the distinguished delegation of Chile and the support of GRULAC for this committee to consider exceptions and limitations for libraries, education and the disabled in its regular work. The proposal by Chile for a study on exceptions and limitations for libraries is therefore a welcome step.

Libraries are an essential component for education and research, the acquiring of knowledge and culture by citizens, and for the enlightenment of society. This role has traditionally been recognised through exceptions and limitations for libraries as expressed in international treaties and national copyright laws.

We would wish for the proposed study to identify the problems, illustrated by case studies from a range of real experiences, from the local public library to the worlds great research libraries. Different remedies would be analysed, followed by recommendations of practical benefit to libraries. In this way, we would hope that the role of exceptions and limitations for libraries in the digital environment would be reinvigorated.

eIFL and IFLA believe that WIPO is the natural organisation to host such a study and we would be pleased to be of any assistance in this regard.

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