Report from WIPO SCCR 21 session for EDRi

by Kai K. Kimppa, PhD

17th December, 2010

[in Finnish]

This is a report for EDRi from the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights 21st meeting in Geneva, Switzerland (henceforth SCCR 21) November 8th to 12th, 2010 [1]. In this report, the handling of Broadcaster’s and Cablecaster’s rights (except for the NGO statements) are not handled due to the fact that the author was not present during these negotiations (for this topic see [1]).

A captioning function was available in the meeting [2]. If one had someone present at the meeting who could link the address and provide a password to it, one could follow the discussion from anywhere, by reading the statements from the caption. There were some problems with it (such as countries presented wrongly), however, which need to be taken into account if one cannot be present at the WIPO meeting. In a future event, where no representative can be sent, at least this might be available (through other NGO representatives) for a follow-up of the main issues.

On the other topics, the handling had started during the afternoon of the second day of the meeting, during which I was not present. Fortunately a handy comparison chart of the four previously introduced proposals from 2009 and 2010, from which it was fairly easy to catch up with the current discussion was available. Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay (who were later joined by Mexico – thus the BEMP Treaty proposal, not BEP, as it was called in the meeting) (SCCR/18/5, [3]) and the African Group (SCCR/20/11, [4]) had made fairly similar proposals, based on a WBU (The World Blind Union) recommendations for the visually impaired (various terminology was used in various documents, e.g. blind and other reading disabilities or persons with print and other reading disabilities – for the purposes of this document, they mean the same). In their proposals also other disabled people were mentioned, unlike in the US (SCCR/20/10, [4]) or EU (SCCR/20/12, [4]) proposals, which were in this and other respects much more constricting in the exceptions proposed. The exceptions for other disabled were, in the final document, moved to a different meeting, together with the limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions, libraries and archives.

During the meeting, KEI made a statement [5] supporting the BEMP Treaty proposal for extending the exceptions to include other disabled in need than only visually impaired which I signed on EDRi’s behalf.

Most of the discussion in the meeting from Wednesday on revolved around the issue of limitations and exceptions for the visually impaired. Unfortunately, that left little time for the multitude of other topics that should have been handled. This was recognized, and thus what the meeting actually ended up doing on the topics left unhandled was to divide them up between additional working days and the coming SCCR meetings in the following manner:

May/June 2011, SCCR 22: three additional working days for limitations and exceptions for persons with print and other reading disabilities, to be presented to the WIPO General Assembly (GA) during September 2011, where a decision is to be taken on the topic.

November 2011, SCCR 23: three additional working days for limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives. This was an especially hot topic amongst the NGOs, as it originally seemed, that educational and research institutions would have been handled before libraries and archives – and all were predicting that to be a much tougher negotiation, possibly having repercussions on the negotiations for libraries and archives.

It seems that the limitations and exceptions for archives is going to be a lot easier topic to handle than even libraries. There would seem little point in limiting the usage of archive material, especially (but not only) in the case of orphan works by the archives. It is, after all, fairly unlikely that these would be profitable usages nor that they would be “misused”, in the sense of the current copyright law or its related rights. The question for libraries is arguably tougher, although, access to information through libraries should be a clear goal to educate the people.

May/June 2012, SCCR 24: again, three additional working days to the regular session, now for the limitations and exceptions for education, teaching and research institutions, and, rather surprisingly, persons with other disabilities (than print or reading impaired).

There seemed to be no representatives for education, teaching and research institution NGOs at the meeting. Maybe they were there, but the NGOs representing visually impaired, libraries, archives and general purpose NGOs such as EDRi, EFF and KEI (although, no FSF, even though they had a seat – unfortunate), and of course the associations representing copyright holders and ‘casters were at least much more visible.

Both SCCR 23 and SCCR 24 results are to be presented in the following WIPO GA meeting in September 2012.

More meetings in-between the SCCR/GA meetings were originally proposed, but Group B was worried that the cost/time spent by the Australian and New Zealand representatives might be prohibitive, and thus were not happy with this idea. Surprisingly enough, the original proposal for extra meetings was made by the GRULAC (South American) and Africa groups, which, quickly thinking, might find the cost at least even more prohibitive, yet, were willing to participate.

Basically, the exceptions for various disabled are not going to switch the field of copyright much to any direction – nor will the exceptions to archives. And these exceptions are easily justifiable by mere access to information argument – access to extremely limited amount of information compared to non-disabled in any case.

The exceptions for libraries, schools, higher education and research, on the other hand might be more meaningful from a copyright perspective. But, this then in a good sense, as in getting access to information for those who at the moment are lacking it especially for education but also for cultural purposes (as is of course true for disabled as well!).

As seems to be becoming more and more common, the meeting stretched until (and past) midnight on the last evening. The final version of the timetable for further negotiations was accepted 7 minutes to midnight – after midnight it would have been too late, and it would have gone to SCCR 22. After that, the paper was still discussed, thanks were given etc., but basically, the result of SCCR 21 was achieved at that point.