WIPO: Discussions on copyright exceptions for education and research move forward

published 16 April 2019 updated 29 April 2019

The week of April 1-5, 2019 was an important week for education and educators due to discussions at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva.

The importance of copyright exceptions, including for education, was acknowledged by several speakers during the 38th session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related rights (SCCR). Attention was also drawn to the trans-border character of education. More government delegates than at previous meetings of the committee, expressed hopes that during the next meeting in October there will be progress to advance international work on exceptions and limitations. The demand for tangible results seems to be on the rise, according to Education International (EI) delegate to the SCCR Nikola Wachter.

Wachter explained that EI attends the SCCR to defend and broaden international copyright legislation that empowers teachers, researchers and students to use copyright protected works for teaching and learning at home and for cross-border collaboration and exchange.

In her statement to the SCCR, Wachter stressed that the exceptions and limitations to the use of copyrighted materials in education should be enhanced to allow for access to quality education for all.

Unpacking myths around copyright and education

EI organized a side event in collaboration with the International Federation of Library Associations, and the Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL). Under the title Truths, Trends and Tropes: Unpacking the Debate around Copyright Exceptions and Limitations representatives from libraries, education unions, researchers, students and government representatives addressed recurring issues around copyright and education.

The session included sessions on why “commercial licenses can’t solve it all”, “there is a need for an international instrument” and “exceptions and limitations are not the end of markets”.

EI stressed that “while discussions at WIPO turn in circles, modern education has moved on and we need an international instrument that provides clarity for educators and students when they work in their country or in cross-border settings”.

Students of the University of Toronto provided insightful examples of copyright related challenges they have encountered during their studies. Some had not been able to access works while being on exchange programs abroad, while others had to keep clicking on an online book as otherwise their access to the book would stop due to restrictive license terms.

Expanding on the knowledge around copyrights

During the SCCR38 sessions, several studies related to exceptions and limitations were presented to the audience. They ranged from presentations on the typologies of copyright laws for education and libraries to copyrights in education and distance learning. The latter included revealing examples of how educators, students and university librarians encounter problems when collaborating across borders. The participants also pointed out challenges related to commercial license agreements.

Regional events

The SCCR38 provided information on the upcoming regional events in Singapore, Dominican Republic and Kenya. EI is going to attend these consultations with several member organisations in order to express  the voice of education workers through their unions in the regions. The recommendations that will result from the regional seminars will guide the discussions at an international WIPO conference on exceptions and limitations in October of 2019 as well as at the 39th session of the SCCR the following week.