World Intellectual Property Organization

Committee Meetings

December 2008

IGC – Consultations to Continue on Future Work Program

After attempts to hammer out compromise texts on the future work program of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) faltered at the Committee’s 13th session, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and the IGC Chairman, Ambassador Rigoberto Gauto Vielman of Paraguay, said they would pursue efforts to bridge differences among Member States to move the international negotiations forward.  The IGC’s mandate calls upon the Committee to accelerate its work, and expectations remain strong that the Committee should produce a significant outcome by the time it is required to report back to the WIPO General Assembly in September 2009.

Mr. Gurry described the outcome as disappointing, but suggested, “the failure to close a deal was a measure of the political significance of what is on the table: potentially, a major normative shift in the intellectual property system.” He remarked on the increasing political will to find a substantive and credible basis for systematic recognition, within the law of intellectual property, of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

“We had an excellent week of discussions where delegations showed a high level of engagement and I am personally surprised that at the end we could not agree,” said Ambassador Gauto Vielman. He added, “There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the process needs to move forward in a meaningful way. The disagreements centered on the best manner to achieve this.” He said the time available for the 13th session, which met from October 13 to 17, had been insufficient to bridge the differences, and indicated that he would pursue informal consultations with Member States and observers, including representatives of indigenous and local communities taking part in the IGC’s work, before the next session.

The program and budget adopted by WIPO Member States foresees two full IGC sessions in 2009. 

Proposals and counter-proposals

An African Group initiative called for inter-sessional procedures, including three expert groups charged with distilling key findings from the IGC’s extensive work on the protection of traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) and on the interplay between intellectual property and genetic resources, to provide more focused material for review at the next session. However, a number of delegations signaled their unwillingness to accept various features of this plan, calling for all work to be held within the framework of the formal sessions and all working meetings to be fully open-ended.  Such counter‑proposals were seen by others as reducing the chances of the kind of focused, intensive work required to produce workable outcomes from a complex, technical, multilateral process. 

The results of proposals to analyze gaps in the international protection available for TK and TCEs, drawn up in the IGC session held in February, were reviewed in this session.  These gap analyses contrast the current international legal framework with specific examples of gaps in protection and practical considerations of how best to address these. The analyses are expected to help prioritize issues, identify substantive areas and to guide the future work of the IGC towards concrete results.

Participation of indigenous peoples 

The IGC continues to build on intergovernmental mechanisms to ensure that indigenous peoples and local communities have a more influential voice. An Indigenous Caucus and a capacity-building workshop were convened prior to the IGC and the Committee’s opening session featured a panel discussion with indigenous representatives, chaired by Mr. Albert Deterville of the Indigenous People (Bethechilokono) of the Saint Lucia Governing Council.

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SCCR – Key Copyright Issues Under Review

The current state of play of WIPO’s work on limitations and exceptions and on the protection of audiovisual performances and broadcasting organizations, was the focus of the November meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). 

A number of Member Atates also stressed the need to address the special needs of disabled persons, including access to copyright-protected works by those who are visually impaired. Such access may involve copying and transforming a work into a readable format such as Braille, large-print books or audiobooks. National law in many countries allows such copying and transformation without the rightsowner’s permission; however, in other countries, such acts could infringe copyright if undertaken without authorization. It was agreed to analyze current limitations and exceptions in this area. The SCCR asked for a draft questionnaire to be prepared and circulated before its next session, to include limitations and exceptions related to educational activities, activities of libraries and archives and provisions for disabled persons as well as to digital technology in the field of copyright. The findings will serve as the basis for future discussions.

Member States remained committed to developing the international protection of audiovisual performances.  The SCCR supported the organization of further regional and national seminars to facilitate information exchange and promote national systems of protection in this area.

The Committee decided to continue discussions on the protection of broadcasting organizations with a view to concluding an international instrument and noted progress had been made in boosting understanding of the various stakeholder positions. Participants reaffirmed the General Assembly’s decision in 2007 that the approach to protection must be signal-based and that a diplomatic conference could be convened only after agreement on objectives, specific scope and object of protection. The SCCR agreed to continue its analysis of the matter and asked for an information meeting to be organized during its next session in May 2009 to focus on current conditions within the broadcasting environment, with special reference to developing and least developed countries.

The SCCR meeting was preceded by a two and a half-day information session that included the presentation of four WIPO studies on copyright limitations and exceptions, including those for the benefit of libraries and archives and visually impaired persons in the digital environment. A summary of the outcome of seminars and stocktaking of positions on the protection of audiovisual performances was also presented in this session.

Easier computer access for the visually impaired at WIPO


Photo: Mark Miller

In August, the President of the World Blind Union (WBU), Dr. William Rowland, and the Chair of the WBU Copyright and Right to Read Working Group, Mr. Christopher Friend, visited WIPO to acknowledge the step taken by WIPO to install software for the visually impaired on its public computers. This software, consisting of a screen reader and screen magnifier, allows a visually impaired person to use a computer and to navigate through sites in such a way that web pages are read out aloud.

WIPO is committed to ensuring that any delegate attending meetings at its headquarters receives equal access to information.  It is working progressively towards achieving an accessible website by following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines of the Web Accessibility Initiative.  Pages created according to these guidelines greatly enhance the usability of sites by the visually impaired.  The Organization also makes electronic versions of documents available to visually impaired delegates as soon as they are distributed on paper to other delegates.

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