This week COMMUNIA is attending the 41st session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), in its observer capacity.
This is the second time the Committee meets since the beginning of the pandemic. In November last year, we urged the Committee to take appropriate action to respond to the massive disruption to education, research and other public interest activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, no Delegations put forward any proposal, and we left the SCCR disappointed at WIPO’s inaction in the face of this global crisis.
Today, most Delegations expressed their agreement to a proposal to hold a number of regional consultations “to further develop the understanding of the situation of the cultural and educational and research institutions at the local level, especially in light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on them”. Furthermore, a proposal by the Asia-Pacific Group, to hold an informational session at the next SCCR on the impact of COVID-19 on all the beneficiaries of the copyright system, was also well received.
Global South countries insisted, nevertheless, that the next steps for the agenda items on limitations and exceptions to copyright should not be limited to those consultations and information sessions. Many Delegations recalled the 2012 mandate to work towards “an appropriate international legal instrument”, and urged the Committee to set a work plan to fulfill the mandate.
The following is the statement made on behalf of COMMUNIA on the agenda item on limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities (Agenda Item 7):
During the peak of the pandemic, 90 percent of all countries worldwide offered online learning. Yet, many of these remote uses made by your educational communities, made by your family, your friends, are not protected by law. By the vast majority of laws.
The lack of fundamental exceptions to copyright that are fit for our current digital lives is a problem across the world. Yet many here claim this is a local issue, for each member state alone to solve.
When a meeting (such as this one) takes place and the participants, joining from all over the world, cite others in their statements, they trigger the application of multiple laws. When universities in your countries invite students located in other countries to online programmes, and the teachers show copyrighted images in their live streamed classes, they also trigger the application of multiple laws. Yet many here claim that there is no cross-border dimension to these issues, and each member state alone can solve them.
We honestly do not know how your country or any other country is supposed to solve these issues alone, when the works shown and shared in one country are seen and heard across multiple countries at the same time.
So we urge you, work together to find a supranational solution to these pressing needs that affect education, research, and access to information.
As a first measure, we ask you to pass a resolution now to assert the flexibilities that exist in the Treaties to conduct public interest activities online. Further, we ask you to develop a work programme for the Limitations and Exceptions agenda item to fix this issue and protect fundamental uses across borders.
Finally, while we welcome the proposal for consultations and informational sessions, we ask that this time our constituencies are properly involved and represented.