Wolrd Intellectual Property Organisation’s flag (OMPI in French). Image by: World Intellectual Property Organisation

With the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights’ (SCCR) thirty-fourth session at World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) approaching, we would be very grateful if we could draw on the Rare Books and Special Collections Section’s experience in order to strengthen our arguments.

We need, as ever, to maintain the pressure for an international instrument which will not only keep up the pressure for copyright reform nationally, but will also allow libraries to operate internationally. The more we can present national delegates with evidence from their own countries, the more likely we are to convince them.

 IFLA’s work at WIPO

The IFLA delegation at the last Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights. Image by: World Intellectual Property Organisation

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) offers a platform for discussion among Member States and NGOs at a global level on intellectual property law and how to make it work better. The Organisation’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related rights, in particular is focusing on exceptions and limitations to copyright – the derogations from the exclusive rights of authors and publishers which allow libraries to do things such as preservation, reproduction or lending.

IFLA has engaged in WIPO for many years, with the objective of making global progress towards legal frameworks that allow libraries to do their jobs. We have been calling for an international legal instrument that will support domestic policy makers in passing reforms that benefit the public while allowing cross-border collaboration. The interest in seeking such a solution is that this will both raise all signatory countries up to a minimum standard of limitations and exceptions (L&E) for libraries, as well as allowing for cooperation and sharing of knowledge across borders.

Together with partner NGOs that represent the interests of libraries, museums and archives all over the world, we argue that those institutions have a key public interest role and that the current system is not working for them in many countries.


The section’s experience

Many copyright issues arise when dealing with rare books and special collections, for instance around digitization, preservation or cross-border sharing. A librarian might not be able to reproduce a work, especially through a cross-border network, to guarantee its preservation, or to share this reproduction with another country’s library in response to a request from one of their users. This becomes even more relevant in the case of rare books and special collections, where unique works need to be preserved.

Situations where good faith uses of a work are hampered by copyright provisions help show how the system is needlessly blocking libraries from performing their public interest mission, leaving out a wide range of possibilities of knowledge-sharing.


Call for examples

We are looking for examples that will support our arguments at SCCR, especially on the below issues:

  • When libraries are unable to make information available (or get access to information) across borders due to copyright rules, such as through document supply, acquisition, or making works available online
  • When libraries are unable to undertake cross-border collaborative activities (such as joint digitization efforts) due to laws that do not permit them to do so or that are not clear enough
  • When libraries simply do not have the national copyright laws needed to do their jobs (and are unlikely to see change without external pressure)

Any contributions from you or your sections would be very helpful in illustrating the need for further legal developments in favour of libraries. We welcome all possible examples, the more specific the better.

As the meetings at WIPO will take place from the 1st to the 5th of May, it would be good to receive your examples, if possible, a few days before, preferably before the 24th of April.

For any further questions, please contact Stephen Wyber ( or Ariadna Matas (

Thank you very much in advance for your collaboration.


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