IAF statement on Exceptions and Limitations at SCCR39

Luke AlcottNews, WIPO

As the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) held the 39th session of its Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), the International Authors Forum (IAF) submitted a statement on Exceptions and Limitations:

The International Authors Forum represents authors from the text, screenwriting and visual arts sectors and their interests in copyright. Our membership represents well over 700,000 authors worldwide.

Ultimately it is authors’ work that is being discussed at WIPO. All countries and cultures produce authors whose rights must have consideration if diversity of cultures, languages and literatures is to be preserved. To ensure that authors can continue to contribute to the culture around them a balanced approach to exceptions is necessary. In no country are authors able to work and create when they are not adequately paid. It is vital to the ongoing work of authors that even the best-intentioned exceptions to copyright must not disadvantage the human right of authors to seek a living from their work.

Before considering any significant changes to limitations and exceptions, care should be taken to honor international copyright provisions that enable and encourage licensing and fair remuneration. It is also important that with digital technology making it easier to create copies, the digital shift should not lead to copying without remuneration beyond the intent of established or new exceptions.

Authors believe that a robust set of provisions exist in most countries with sufficient flexibility for countries to work towards library and archive solutions. Licensing frameworks can be adapted to local needs, and best practice examples exist modelling a balance between remuneration and access.

At times the discourse on exceptions in education has not fully considered the need for the author to be fairly compensated. Authors work within complex cultural value chains at national and international levels, and education is an important, established market for published work. The International Authors Forum insists that the diversity of authors’ markets and interests must always be considered in approaches to limitations and exceptions.

Libraries and archives play an essential role in ensuring the preservation and availability of knowledge, culture and heritage. Authors around the world are proud their work makes up the core of library and archive collections. Authors want the widest possible lawful access to their work and recognise the institutions vital to encouraging access for all. However, while achieving access, a balance must be struck to allow authors proper remuneration for their work.

Discussion on exceptions and limitations is concerning for authors at the national and international levels. Our rights are often portrayed as antagonistic to content distributors and users. We do not believe the individual rights of any group (in this case artists) should ever be considered an inconvenience to the consumption desires of another. Rather, a balance is required to benefit all of these groups, with an approach that acknowledges the significant diversity of creators, content and users, and the impact that changing copyright can have on them. We are concerned that suggested broad-brush international changes could limit the development of local creative sectors.

There is a need to address the imbalance in opportunity and access between different countries, but authors believe that in overcoming this inequality a balanced approach to limitations and exceptions is required. In that way there is opportunity for creators to have a stable economic role in their culture, and to ensure that we do not see imported cultural goods from privileged countries endangering the emergence of national cultural sectors. Authors support the role that exceptions and limitations currently play in enabling creation of works that can reach their widest possible audience, but are concerned that some interested groups view these measures as a backdoor to access works without fair reward to creators. Prioritising access without due consideration for the establishment of lasting creative industries and cultural sectors will harm the culture of countries these measures would seek to help.