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World Intellectual Property Day: EI calls for fair and balanced copyright rules

published 23 April 2010 updated 23 April 2010

Recently recognised as an official observer at the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the global federation representing educators worldwide issues a statement on the occasion of World Intellectual Property Day on 26 Apr, calling for "fair and balanced copyright rules".

In its statement, EI draws attention to the recent announcement by governments involved in the negotiation of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that the draft treaty will finally be made public.

While it welcomes the move, EI cautions its member organisations to pay close attention to the negotiations, as the treaty raises potentially serious concerns for all educators.

According to leaked documents, proposals made to the draft treaty could drastically limit the free access by academics, teachers and students to the education and research resources they need.

EI strongly advocates the respect of intellectual property right, but a "fair and balanced" approach to copyright rules is necessary so as to "strike the appropriate balance between the rights of creators and users, and the needs of industrialising and industrialised economies".

19-25 April is the Global Action Week for Education For All, during which EI member organisations participate actively in the campaigning efforts to get 72 million children into school by 2015. In this context, international copyright rules should aid, rather than impede, these children's right to education.

Please scroll down to read the full statement.

Statement on World Intellectual Property Day: Educators stand up for fair and balanced copyright rules

On the occasion of World Intellectual Property Day, Education International (EI), the global federation of teacher unions and associations, emphasises the need for fair and balanced global copyright rules.

Intellectual property (IP) rules directly affect the lives of all those who work, study and research across the education sector. Despite this, attempts to rewrite the rules governing IP, through avenues such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), have been shrouded in unprecedented levels of secrecy. It appears to be the case that ACTA is being negotiated outside the scope of any recognised international body or process, by a handful of mostly industrialised countries.

Although EI welcomes the announcement that a draft ACTA treaty will finally be made public, it strongly urges affiliate members and partner organisations to closely follow the negotiations because ACTA raises serious concerns for all educators. According to leaked documents, one of the goals for the proposed treaty is to create new international copyright rules that go far beyond existing treaties agreed by the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

It could establish a new global institution with a secretariat and legally-binding dispute resolution process; while other proposals would increase powers for border guards to search people and personal property, including laptops and other electronic devices. It could also create onerous new criminal provisions that would infringe on commercial copyright, but also impact in those instances where there is no pecuniary benefit, such as educational research, and personal use.

Those governments which sign up to the deal might even have to adopt a “three strikes and you’re out” rule, which require Internet service providers to cut off subscribers after three alleged – though not necessarily proven – claims of copyright infringement.

EI is concerned that the ACTA proposals run contrary to WIPO’s development agenda. Industrialising countries have been pressing for a more balanced approach to global IP rules, that recognise their need for increased flexibility, and have broader exemptions for educational and research purposes. ACTA though, could potentially narrow the meaning of ‘fair use’ and ‘fair dealing’, making it more difficult for teachers and students to access and use the resources that they need.

EI strongly believes that international copyright rules should be negotiated by the global community within the framework of WIPO. As a recently recognised official observer, EI will continue to press for rules that strike the appropriate balance between the rights of creators and users, and the needs of industrialising and industrialised economies. Educators, as both owners and users of intellectual property, have a unique contribution to play in the development of a fair and sustainable knowledge society.