Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives

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Copyright limitations and exceptions are fundamental for access to knowledge and thus for human and social development.

Why is IFLA advocating for copyright reform at WIPO?

Copyright laws are meant to balance the public interest in accessing information with the rights of authors, artists, and publishers. In some countries, copyright laws include provisions so libraries and archives can provide public access to the world’s knowledge—but in many countries, these exceptions apply only to resources that exist in traditional formats. Outdated copyright laws increasingly prevent libraries and archives from performing their most basic functions, simply because resources are now digital. In a number of countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America, there are no exceptions safeguarding the services of libraries and archives at all.

As rules in favor of copyright holders have increased through binding global treaties, rules for libraries and archives that enable access to information have stayed frozen. The result is a broken copyright system that:

  • Deepens inequalities in public knowledge and skills
  • Creates permanent holes in the historical record
  • Prevents information created today from being available for future generations

IFLA believes that international action is needed to ensure essential library and archive functions continue to be preserved in copyright laws.

What would an international framework look like?

IFLA is seeking an international framework that will facilitate library lending, inter library loan and document supply in digital and print forms; enable use of orphan works; ensure the ability to acquire eBooks from publishers; protect library exceptions from override by contract; among other important library activities. The Treaty Proposal on Copyright Exceptions and Limitations for Libraries and Archives was created by library and archive experts to guide Member States at the SCCR on model copyright provisions and needs to support the activities of these sectors.

What stage are the negotiations at?

Following the successful conclusion of a treaty to ensure access to works for visually impaired people (the Marrakesh Treaty) in June 2013, copyright exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives are high on the SCCR agenda. This is an important opportunity to establish the concerns of libraries and archives, and build momentum to advance SCCR discussions towards an international instrument.  

Last update: 30 September 2016

Latest News

Copyright and Other Legal Matters at the World Library and Information Congress (WLIC)

The Copyright and Other Legal Matters (CLM) Strategic Programme represents the voice of the international library community in copyright and other legal concerns. CLM strongly advocates at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Geneva, for a minimum international standard of exceptions and limitations to copyright, alongside partner organisations. CLM is also active in issues relating to economic and legal barriers to the acquisition and use of library resources and effective library services, subscription and license agreements, legal issues relevant to broader access to knowledge, in particular online and a wide range of other legal matters of international significance to libraries and librarianship. At this years’ World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in Wroclaw, Poland, CLM Committee members have organised several sessions.

16 August 2017 | Access to information, Copyright, Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives

Is Malawi’s accession to the Marrakesh Treaty effectively addressing the book famine?

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, adopted on June 27, 2013, has been implemented in 30 countries to date, among which Malawi. The country’s accession instrument has been recently deposited at WIPO, and the Treaty will be in force in the country in October 14, 2017.

4 August 2017

South Africa Can Lead the Way: IFLA Delivers Submission on Copyright Reform

South Africa is reforming its copyright framework, and the Copyright Amendment Bill takes an ambitious approach that could set a great example not only for neighbouring countries but also internationally. It contains some very positive provisions for libraries and cultural heritage institutions, such as the recognition of library e-lending, the supply of digital documents, the possibility to make collections available through secure computer networks, the limitation of liability and on the making available of out of commerce works.

17 July 2017