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 Outdated copyright laws increasingly prevent libraries and archives from performing their most basic functions, simply because resources are now digital.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

Librarians ask for a better copyright for education

IFLA has signed the joint letter "Educators ask for a better copyright", initiated by Communia Association for the Public Domain, which underlines our existing concerns with regards to the education exception of the European copyright reform.

16 January 2018 | Copyright, Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives

Libraries Promote Culture, Social Cohesion, Digital Empowerment: Open Letter to the Bulgarian EU Presidency

Libraries and the Bulgarian EU Presidency share the same goals – a stronger, more cohesive Europe, built on creativity, innovation and inclusion. Every day, libraries across the continent are working to give their users access to the information they need to learn and develop, the skills they need to get the best out of the Internet, and a connection to a rich cultural heritage. IFLA's open letter sets out how we can take this potential further still.

10 January 2018 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to information, Cultural heritage, Digitisation, Europe

Bringing Internet Access to All Libraries: Progress and Plans

When the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) set out principles for how the Internet should be run in 2003, the governments present fixed the target of connecting public libraries. When these targets were updated in 2010, governments underlined – all libraries should be connected to the Internet, in order to support a Web that works for all. IFLA's contribution to WSIS annual reporting reflects on progress made in 2017, and to be made in 2018.

8 January 2018 | FAIFE (Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression), Access to information, IFLA and the Information Society, Internet access