Limitations and Exceptions

In order to maintain an appropriate balance between the interests of rightholders and users of protected works, copyright laws allow certain limitations on economic rights, that is, cases in which protected works may be used without the authorization of the rightholder and with or without payment of compensation.

Limitations and exceptions to copyright and related rights vary from country to country due to particular social, economic and historical conditions. International treaties acknowledge this diversity by providing general conditions for the application of exceptions and limitations and leaving to national legislators to decide if a particular exception or limitation is to be applied and, if it is the case, to determine its exact scope. Due to the development of new technologies and the ever-increasing worldwide use of the Internet, it has been considered that the above balance between various stakeholders’ interests needs to be recalibrated.

Limitations and exceptions is an issue considered in the agenda of the WIPO Standing Committee for Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) and, recently, its debate has been focused mainly on three groups of beneficiaries or activities in relation to exceptions and limitations – on educational activities, on libraries and archives and on disabled persons, particularly visually impaired persons.


During recent years WIPO has prepared or commissioned a number of studies mapping different limitations and exceptions in many different countries. These studies were presented to member states during various sessions of the SCCR.