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 Outdated copyright laws increasingly prevent libraries and archives from performing their most basic functions, simply because resources are now digital.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

New Opportunities: European Parliament Opens Way to Plenary Debate about EU Copyright Directive

The European Parliament today voted to reject the version of the draft Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market proposed by its Legal Affairs Committee. This decision will lead to a debate in September in plenary, with all 751 Members of the European Parliament able to propose amendments.

5 July 2018 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to knowledge, Copyright, Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives, Europe, Preservation

A Bright Future for Libraries in Australia’s Copyright Modernisation Review

Australia is looking at reviewing its Copyright Act of 1968 with the aim of bringing its copyright framework up to date with the digital world. IFLA submitted comments and welcomed the acknowledgement that an effective, efficient, accountable and especially adaptable system is needed.

5 July 2018 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to information, Copyright, Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives, Australia

Sunshine and Clouds: The European Parliament Takes Position on the Copyright Directive

Yesterday, the Legal affairs committee at the European Parliament (EP) voted on the copyright Directive. There is welcome confirmation of the value of exceptions to copyright as a guarantee of access to knowledge and use of information across borders. But a sting in the tail remains, with broad scope for obliging educators to pay for licences for all uses of works, and a backwards step on technological protection measures.

21 June 2018 | CLM (Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters), Access to information, Copyright, Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives