Member States Review Key Copyright Issues

Geneva, November 10, 2008

WIPO member states meeting under the auspices of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights met from November 3 to 7 November 2008 to review a number of key copyright issues. Under the chairmanship of Mr. Jukka Liedes of Finland, the SCCR examined the current state of play WIPO’s work on limitations and exceptions, the protection of audiovisual performances and the protection of broadcasting organizations. Discussions also featured the question of access to copyright-protected content by visually impaired persons.  

Limitations and Exceptions: Access for Visually Impaired People

A number of member states acknowledged the special needs of disabled persons (including the blind, visually impaired and other reading-disabled persons) and stressed the importance of addressing those needs. They further agreed to analyse current limitations and exceptions. The meeting also discussed the possible establishment of a stakeholders’ platform at WIPO, to facilitate secure access for disabled persons to copyright-protected works. The need for visually disabled people to have access to copyright protected works in a readable format (e.g. Braille, large print and audiobooks) may involve copying and transforming a given work into a large-text or other format. National law in many countries allow such copying and transformation without the rightsowners’ permissions, in other countries, however, such acts could infringe copyright if undertaken without authorization.
Limitations and exceptions exist as a counterbalance to the exclusive rights granted under copyright law and intellectual property law in general. Limitations and exceptions help to ensure that the public interest is safeguarded. As copyright laws are essentially territorial, there is no uniform treatment of limitations and exceptions within national laws.  To promote understanding of the diverse ways in which limitations and exceptions are handled within national systems, the SCCR requested that a questionnaire be prepared and circulated ahead of its next session.  The areas covered by the questionnaire will include limitations and exceptions related to educational activities, activities of libraries and archives, provisions for disabled persons, as well as digital technology in the field of copyright. The findings of the questionnaire would then serve as the basis for future SCCR discussions.

Audiovisual Performances

Delegates also discussed the status of negotiations on the protection of audiovisual performances. A diplomatic conference convened in 2000 which sought to update the rights of audiovisual performers at the international level concluded with no agreement.  Member states attending last week’s SCCR expressed their commitment to develop the international protection of performers in their audiovisual performances.  Many delegations underlined the importance of information exchange as a means of building consensus on this issue.  The SCCR supported the continued organization of regional and national seminars as a means of facilitating information exchange and promoting national systems of protection in this area.

Broadcasting Organizations

The SCCR decided to continue discussions on the protection of broadcasting organizations with a view to concluding an international instrument.  Progress has been made in boosting understanding of the various stakeholder positions. However, further work is required to achieve agreement on the objectives, specific scope and object of protection of such an instrument before convening a diplomatic conference to conclude a treaty. All delegations, said that this process should proceed according to the WIPO General Assembly’s decision in 2007. This decision stated 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 objective of protection had been achieved.
The SCCR agreed to continue its analysis of the matter and requested that an information meeting be organized during the SCCR’s next session in May 2009. This information session would focus on the current conditions within the broadcasting environment.
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