SCCR/35 COMMUNIA statement on limitations and exceptions for education

In our capacity of permanent observers of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, we are attending the 35th session of the Committee, which is taking place in Geneva from 13 to 17 November 2017.

The following is the statement made by Teresa Nobre on our behalf on agenda item 7: Limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities.


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m speaking on behalf of COMMUNIA International Association on the Digital Public Domain.

Prof. Allan Rocha de Souza reminded us yesterday that a strong solid copyright system needs social legitimacy, and that social demands will not wait for legislation.

In the past several years we have seen the civil society organizing itself against trade agreements that are perceived as unfair, because they do not balance the private interests with the public interests in relation to copyright. On the other hand, all over the world, students, teachers, researchers and citizens in general commit daily infringements of copyright in order to get access to knowledge and education.

Not acknowledging these social demands and everyday practices will only weaken the defense of copyright as a system.

The path to harmonising copyright laws across WIPO Member States has been remarkable from the perspective of authors and other beneficiaries of copyright. This forum has not deferred to national laws when deciding to provide these parties with a reasonable high level of protection of their interests. It seems to us deeply unfair that, when it comes to users’ rights, those Member States that benefit from sophisticated copyright exceptions and limitations refuse to make a convergence of laws, suggesting that Member States should been given the freedom to decide whether to implement provisions that protect public interests such as access to knowledge and education.

Several studies made in the past several years have demonstrated the impact exerted by narrow educational exceptions in everyday educational practices. Unless the copyright laws of Member States are substantially amended, the global educational community will be stuck with laws that will continue to curtail educational practices at various levels.

We know that educational policies are local and that the markets for educational materials have local characteristics. However, we also know that the needs of educators and learners in terms of having access and using copyrighted works for educational purposes are the same everywhere in the world. We have to stop using the narrative that education is local and properly address this issue at an international level.

As we speak, the European Union is considering adopting a mandatory exception for educational uses that will harmonize the laws of 28 European countries, despite their different traditions and local specificities. They are showing to the world that agreeing on a minimum standard is possible, while still taking into account local specificities.

Therefore, we urge this Committee to fulfil its mandate and address the limitations copyright law places on education, by agreeing on an action plan that is focused on reviewing existing and future international legal provisions that could serve as a model for a minimum harmonization in this field.

A satire on the art business in which art experts and dealers who assess paintings are depicted as donkeys. After the drawing by Trémolières in the Hessisches Landes Museum in Darmstadt (cropped).
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