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 Outdated copyright laws increasingly prevent libraries and archives from performing their most basic functions, simply because resources are now digital.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: 12 January 2019

Latest News

Controlled Digital Lending: an Interview with Jonathan Band

The concept of controlled digital lending is receiving growing attention. Originating in the United States, it is now a subject of discussion elsewhere in the world, raising both interest and concern. IFLA has interviewed Jonathan Band, a member of the Libraries Copyright Alliance, to find out more.

22 January 2019 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to information, Copyright, Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives, eBooks, eLending, eLending for Libraries

Libraries Can't Get Enough eBooks; an Interview with Sharon Day, Edmonton Public Library

IFLA has interviewed Sharon Day, speaking on behalf of a campaign in Canada to boost the availability - and affordability - of eBooks for libraries. The goal - to ensure that Canada's libraries can fulfil their mission of giving readers maximum possible access to knowledge and culture.

15 January 2019 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to information, eBooks, eLending, eLending for Libraries, Canada

IFLA, EIFL Congratulate Thailand on Copyright Reforms for People with Print Disabilities

IFLA and EIFL have addressed a letter of congratulation to the Prime Minister of Thailand, following the passage of legislation that will bring the country into line with the Marrakesh Treaty.

19 December 2018 | Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities, Access to information, Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives, Thailand, Marrakesh Treaty