IPA Blog

WIPO Blog (SCCR 35) Day 5 – That’s a Wrap

Apart from conducting meetings all week with delegates of Members States, the IPA team has also been busy meeting with the Genevan Ambassadors of key countries. Sometimes we do so to thank them for their support and at other times we do so to quiz them about their positions when they undermine their own local publishers and creators. It’s always good to let our allies know that we appreciate them, and it’s equally important to let the other side know that we are listening to what they say and that, if we disagree, we are always ready and willing to explain our own positions.

Meanwhile, back at WIPO, the morning’s session kicked off with a discussion about a possible new agenda item for future SCCR meetings: resale right for visual artists, otherwise known as ‘droit de suite’. Resale right already exists in a number of jurisdictions and in places like Australia it works quite well. If resale right were to make its way onto the main SCCR agenda it would be a welcome change since it is a topic that expands creators’ rights in contrast to the insistent discussions around exceptions and limitations to copyright law which we have had to endure for some years. The discussion this morning revolved around a presentation by Professor Joelle Farchy on the report Economic Implications of the Resale Right, which she co-authored with Professor Kathryn Graddy and which concluded that artists were, unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly in favour of implementing resale right internationally. In the end, the Member States decided to continue to discuss this topic but keep it under the ‘other matters’ rubric rather than the main agenda.

Also discussed today was a Scoping Study on the Impact of the Digital Environment on Copyright Legislation Adopted between 2006 and 2016 authored by Dr Guilda Rostama, as well as Professor Jane Ginsburg’s summary of a brainstorming exercise between copyright academics conducted at WIPO in April around the topic of the application of copyright in the digital environment. These developments surely point to a growing interest and imperative at SCCR to focus on the effects of the digital economy on the workings of copyright, although some Member States pointed out that the topic as proposed by the GRULAC Group (Latin American and Caribbean countries) goes beyond the scope of copyright protection.

A number of other topics were wrapped up in the last few hours of the day and the Chair’s Summary (usually requiring a painful and protracted negotiation) was accepted relatively easily. We were liberated from SCCR 35 just after 19:00 and we walked out of WIPO into a dark and cold Geneva night, tired but satisfied that some progress had been made on the Broadcasting Treaty but no damage had been done on the exceptions and limitations part of the agenda.

As a codicil, the rhetoric of the meeting swerved when some NGOs began talking about the economic success of nations that had supposedly more ‘flexible’ copyright regimes. Many of us from the Creative Sector Organisations heard in this rhetoric echoes of tech giants pushing for US-style ‘Fair Use’ — arguments that the IPA has consistently countered. At the end of the SCCR, it was good to receive a rebuttal, by Dr George Ford of the Phoenix Center in Washington DC, of one of the studies presented at the meeting which was attempting to indicate a link between ‘open exceptions’ and innovation.

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WIPO Blog (SCCR 35) Day 4 – The True Meaning of Balance

On a grey and gloomy Genevan winter’s day, the IPA team plus our Creative Sector colleagues trooped into early morning meetings first with the Africa Group of WIPO Members States and then with GRULAC (the Latin American and Caribbean countries group). We explained our consistent position on the exceptions and limitations debate: namely that the current copyright framework already provides adequate flexibility and balance to allow for well-crafted national laws, and therefore no international instrument is required.

We understand that the Member States asking for broader exceptions are doing so because of the perceived gap between the resources available in developing countries and those available in developed countries, but, we argued, governments in developing countries should note the exceptions and limitations regimes that already operate every well in comparable countries and begin to modify them for their own local fit. Furthermore, we advocate that all governments work as closely as possible with educational publishers, treating us as key stakeholders in the creation of well-educated people, rather than threatening publishers’ business models by weakening copyright.

Back at the WIPO Conference Room, Daniel Seng from Singapore updated the SCCR on his gargantuan study on copyright limitations and exceptions for educational activities. In brief, like the Crews study yesterday, Seng’s work shows that there is already a plethora of national exceptions and limitations that work at a national level, obviating the need for a new international WIPO treaty in the education sector.

Glenn Rollans, current president of the IPA member the Association of Canadian Publishers, was present at the SCCR meeting representing the Canadian Copyright Institute and made a telling intervention about the language of ‘balance’ that is often used in copyright debates:

‘Thank you for the opportunity to make this written intervention. I represent the Canadian Copyright Institute, which has a mandate to inform Canadians on copyright issues.

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WIPO Blog (SCCR 35) Day 3 – Crews Control and Action Plans

With our unusually large contingent at this SCCR, the IPA team was able to attend a number of simultaneous meetings today, even before the SCCR morning session began. Some of us were at the meeting convened by WIPO to come up with a set of non-binding principles relating to the functioning of Collective Management Organisations; while others attended a high-level briefing by the USA delegation; and still others were at a joint meeting of the so-called Group B (developed) countries and the Central European and Baltic States (CEBS) group. The IPA was joined by other Creative Sector Organisations for the latter. These meetings are essential opportunities for dialogue but this morning the Members States were mostly playing it safe and giving very little away.

When the SCCR proper finally got under way at 10:00am, we immediately started discussing exceptions and limitations for libraries, archives and education, including in particular draft Action Plans that had been prepared by the WIPO Secretariat. A good summary of all the plans is provided by the website IP Watch here. The IPA intervened on the draft Action Plan through our representative at the SCCR, Ted Shapiro, who is a Partner and Head of the Brussels Office of the law firm Wiggin. Ted said:

‘We would like to reiterate our view that the current international legal framework provides ample flexibility for Member States to enact exceptions and limitations consistent with their own legal traditions. It goes without saying that exceptions and limitations, which are legal defences to what are otherwise infringements of copyright, have a profound impact on all rightholders as well as other stakeholders. The Berne Convention/TRIPS/WCT three-step test provides the means for measuring this impact – which is why it is applied internationally and nationally both by legislatures and courts.

We believe that the draft action plan, while some details may need further clarification, provides a useful basis for a number of activities that could support exchange of info and capacity building that can inform countries — including, in particular, developing nations — in their efforts to ensure balanced national copyright laws consistent with the international framework. The IPA stands ready to participate in conferences and provide both legal and commercial experts to assist.

Peace love and copyright.’

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WIPO Blog (SCCR 35) Day 2 – Informal Progress

The second day of SCCR 35 began with the now traditional ‘informal’ meeting of the Creative Sector Organisations (CSO) group, which the IPA coordinates with Benoît Müller (former IPA Secretary General and now consultant to the International Video Federation and Motion Picture Association). This meeting took place on the 13th floor of the ‘old’ WIPO building with sweeping views of the Jura Mountains on one side, and of Lake Geneva and the Alps on the other.

In this inspirational setting, the CSO group discussed the important events of the opening day and planned for the rest of the week, including the meetings that had already been arranged with individual Members State delegations and major regional blocs. We also coordinated our involvement in the ‘side events’ organized for today and tomorrow during the SCCR’s lunch time breaks. But more on that later.

Straight after the CSO meeting, the IPA team split up with some of us attending the plenary session in the main Conference Room. This session featured reports on progress from yesterday’s ‘informals’ that focused on the Broadcasting Treaty, while others in the large IPA contingent (see yesterday’s blog post) undertook a series of meetings off-site.

Members States continued their own informals in the morning until the first lunchtime side event of the week. This consisted of a panel organized by the Brazilian delegation and largely included copyleft advocates making the case for broader exceptions and limitations to copyright law. The one publisher on the panel, FEP President Henrique Mota brilliantly argued that authors and publishers relied on a strong and stable copyright regime to create and disseminate the precious content that others were wanting easier access to. Mota was lucid and passionate, pointing out that publishers assiduously paid for all their content as a matter of course, and that all we are asking for is that users accord us the same courtesy.

After the excitement of the FEP President’s intervention, Member States continued their informals on the Broadcasting Treaty away from the WIPO Conference Room before a final plenary session in the early evening.

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WIPO Blog (SCCR 35) Day 1 – A Smooth Start

SCCR 35 opened on a windy but bright Monday morning at the WIPO offices in Geneva, Switzerland. In his introductory speech, WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry addressed the importance of multilateralism in a time when politicians’ perspectives are increasingly shifting from the international arena to a predominantly national orientation.

New SCCR President Daren Tang began the meeting as usual with a call for opening statement, but had communicated with the various Member States beforehand to keep their remarks to a minimum. As it had for all the recent SCCR meetings, the first agenda item for the week was a session working towards  a treaty for the protection of broadcasting organizations. International rules to protect television broadcasts from piracy have not been updated since the 1961 Rome Treaty. Most representatives of members States have agreed for some time that a new treaty would be desirable.

In the afternoon, the Member States convened what are called ‘informals.’ This entails leaving the open plenary session in the main hall and meeting elsewhere to discuss ways forward and text changes among themselves. NGOs and other observers in attendance are allowed to listen to these informals, but prohibited from reporting on the matters discussed. We hope that tomorrow the morning plenary session will allow us to report on any progress in more detail.

The IPA contingent present this week is the largest in living memory. Apart from the usual team of IPA  CEO José Borghino, and legal advisers André Myburgh and Ted Shapiro, also attending are IPA President Michiel Kolman, Vice-President Hugo Setzer as well FEP President Henrique Mota, FEP Director Anne Bergman-Tahon, (UK) PA CEO Stephen Lotinga, (UK) PA General Counsel William Bowes, and EC member Rudy Vanschoonbeek. Further representing the IPA will be Chiefs of Staff Rachel Martin and Sjors de Heuvel from Elsevier. All of us will be engaged in individual meetings with ambassadors and country delegations, which means we have a busy but exciting week ahead of us.

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ASEAN publishers driving ICCRF, a new children’s rights fair in Thailand, in December

Beijing International Book Fair this year (23-27 August) was as lively as ever, due in part to the significant overseas contingent taking part. Of 2,400 exhibitors, 800 were non-Chinese, coming from 89 countries.

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Russia: Publish and be damned or sanitize and survive?

By Jessica Saenger*, edited by Ben Steward. The ‘homocleansing’ of the Russian edition of Victoria Schwab’s Shades of Magic series offers a topical hook on which to hang the publishers’ dilemma about duty to authors and their duty to stay in business.

This month the hit American author tweeted her outrage at learning that her Russian publisher had ‘redacted the entire queer plot w/out permission’. She added: ‘I was absolutely horrified. Wouldn’t have known if not for a Russian reader who read both editions. Publisher in total breach of contract.’

There are two strands to Schwab’s indignation: the redaction – or censorship – and the manner of that redaction. Quite apart from normal contractual requirements, simple courtesy would dictate that any author deserves fair warning of significant plot changes, whatever the reason. If this didn’t happen here, then the publisher may well have infringed the author's moral rights and be in breach of contract. That is for Rosman and Schwab to work out, although unquestionably the writer is entitled to be upset at discovering by chance that her work had been mangled.

That said, Schwab would do well to take a breath and consider where best to direct her wrath.

Explaining itself in the Vedomosti business daily, Rosman admitted it had censored a romantic scene between two characters in the second book of the Shades of Magic trilogy ‘so as not to violate the law banning the propaganda of homosexuality among minors’. In other words, to avoid criminal liability and having the book wrapped in plastic and given an 18 rating in Russia – thereby losing a large chunk of Schwab’s target readership – the publisher did what the law wants and altered the offending scene. It is Russia’s oppressive gay propaganda law that lies at the root of the problem, not the publishers who obey it.

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South Africa: closer analysis needed of true potential impacts of 'fair use', especially on education

By André Myburgh*. Ostensible reassurances about the benefits of the introduction of ‘fair use’ in South African copyright law (Why fears about ‘fair use’ copyright law are unfoundedneed deeper scrutiny.

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Bangladeshi Culture Minister says his government stands firm on freedom to publish

I recently had a chance to visit Dhaka to meet the IPA’s member there, the Academic and Creative Publishers Association of Bangladesh (ACPAB).

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New Delhi, February 2018: the 32nd International Publishers Congress is shaping up to be the best yet.

Delhi Gate

Earlier this month I visited New Delhi for the first time, to discuss with our Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) colleagues the preparations for the 32nd IPA Congress, on 10-14 February, 2018. 

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Freedom to publish and the IPA Prix Voltaire – an Asian perspective

Whether we like it or not, self-censorship is the new normal in most countries in Asia, from the Middle East to the Far East. But how did this happen?

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Publishers are 100% behind the Marrakesh Treaty, IPA VP reminds Costa Rican meeting

Publishers are 100% behind the Marrakesh Treaty, IPA VP reminds Costa Rican meeting

This week I was in San José, Costa Rica, for a WIPO workshop on the Marrakesh Treaty (…to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities), and the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC), on 13-15 June. 

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WIPO Diary, IGC34 – does the traditional knowledge debate lack…knowledge?

Delegates at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva spent this week discussing (for the 34th time) how to provide adequate intellectual property protection for the ‘traditional knowledge’ that is typically part of the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples.

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Copyright and the rights of disabled people

Occasionally, copyright and the rights of disabled people are framed as somehow incompatible—as though the former may preclude the latter—but to my mind these rights are definitely not mutually exclusive.

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WIPO Diary (SCCR 34) Day 5 - The end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?

Fridays at the SCCR are always unpredictable, and Friday 5 May was no exception. Yet whereas the usual drill is the final plenary dragging on late into the evening to enable time for a satisfactory closure, today was a little more mysterious.

For starters, there was more backroom huddling than open plenary debate at times when the sessions were theoretically meant to be live. The chamber stood eerily quiet for much of the day.

This was largely driven by the chairman, Daren Tang, who was anxious that his first SCCR should conclude with a substantive recommendation to the budget-setting WIPO General Assemblies, in October.

In his own words, the goal was to produce something more meaningful than the usual safe recommendation that the SCCR should merely keep strumming away at the incumbent agenda.

However, having resumed the final plenary at around 4pm, Tang then quickly adjourned it again to allow the national groupings to hold decisive in camera talks, and draw a confident line under the week’s work.

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WIPO Diary (SCCR 34) Day 4 - Copyright: if it ain't broke, don't fix it

Today the SCCR talks ticked onwards to the ‘and persons of other disabilities’ part of the agenda item ‘limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities’ (referring to non-visual impairments).

Professor Blake Reid, of the University of Colorado, an IP and disability law maven, presented the skeleton of a new scoping study that will map the potential needs of people with ‘other disabilities’ and to determine the extent to which copyright law is affecting them.

The lunchtime lobbying event was staged by a group of organizations, including the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (the PIJIP, which made an appearance in yesterday’s post) whose stated common goal is ‘fixing copyright for modern education’.

Among the speakers was Delia Browne, ‘education lead’ for Creative Commons Australia and Director of Australia’s National Copyright Unit (Schools and TAFEs). One of her roles is to consult on copyright law reviews in Australia, which means she’s never idle.

Delia began by noting that Australia is often held up as a benchmark in providing educational access, due to a system of statutory licensing which has been around since the 1980s and a whole series of exceptions.

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WIPO Diary (SCCR 34) Day 3 - IPA takes centre stage

WIPO Diary (SCCR 34) Day 3 - IPA takes centre stage

Committee Chair Daren Tang brought to bear his endearing blend of levitas and gravitas this morning as he started the day’s negotiations on ‘limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives’. As he did so, Tang reminded the delegates of the burden of responsibility they bear, something that’s becoming his signature patter.

He said their decisions ‘can make a positive impact on the lives of the millions of citizens out there who are in different countries struggling with different issues’, and that copyright ‘impacts the lives of every person’.

‘I hope that we will be able to move towards something that is constructive, something that is useful not just from the government perspective, but from the human perspective ... the connection of what we do here with the lives of those people will become a lot more apparent than it is now, will become a lot more positive than it is right now, and I believe that's the spirit in which we should work,’ he said.

The inference – intended or otherwise – is that the SCCR has a duty to put the greater good before self-interest and other less noble considerations.

Despite this, most of the delegates then stated again that an international instrument is the wrong approach, while pockets of the Global South want it. By the same token, content owners don’t see the point, while librarians and archivists vehemently do. It’s hard to see a way through this impasse, and indeed the Chair’s greatest task now will be to map such a route.

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WIPO Diary Day 2 (SCCR 34) - 'Informals' in the chamber of secrets

Today’s talks unfolded almost entirely behind closed doors during so-called ‘informals’, a setting usually employed to unblock a particularly tough impasse, when consensus on the floor of the plenary has proved impossible.

The informals, which take place in a separate chamber on the WIPO campus, are strictly for country delegations only. NGOs are not invited, but we can follow the audio feed from the plenary chamber provided we don’t report publicly what is said.

This approach enables the delegates to be freer and franker when wrangling over semantic minutiae that, ultimately, will form the substance of the text.

It was late afternoon before the committee returned to the plenary chamber to report on their talks. Chairman Daren Tang immediately poured cold water on the idea that a diplomatic conference on the broadcasting treaty was around the corner (see previous blog post). However, he did suggest the 'chair's text' be upgraded to a 'committee text'. This is a baby step closer to collective acceptance of the working document under discussion, which until now had only reflected the previous chair's personal attempt to provide a fair text.

Other than that, I have nothing much to write about what happened today ... so let’s look at tomorrow, when the IPA, with FEP and Bertlesmann, will stage a side-event with a difference.

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WIPO Diary (SCCR 34) Day 1 - Musical chairs, and all that jazz.

WIPO Diary (SCCR 34) Day 1 - Musical chairs, and all that jazz.

SCCR 34 opened this rainy Geneva morning, if not with a bang, at least with the hope that proceedings could ‘swing’ under the leadership of the committee’s upbeat new chairman, onetime jazzman, Daren Tang.

After WIPO Director General Francis Gurry passed him the gavel, Tang, who is CEO of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, promised to do his best to yield results – particularly on the stickier agenda items.

Chief among these is the ‘protection of broadcasting organizations’, which has basically ping-ponged back and forth across the floor for 20 years, despite WIPO’s best efforts to drag it forwards.

Acknowledging the friction, Tang said: “The work has been challenging. Some of the items on the agenda as you know have been around for a long time and I will not deny that they challenge the spirit of openness, transparency and fairness. We hope we’ll be able to give this meeting and all the different agenda items in it the best possible airing, the best possible push.”

Tang also hoped that his perspectives and experience, coming from Singapore – “a bridge between East and West, North and South, developed and developing” – would help things along.

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The 'Focus on Creators' Campaign in Canada, by Hugh Stephens

WHAT DO Alanis Morissette, Margaret Atwood, Bryan Adams, Marie Claire Blais, Michael Bublé, Sharon Pollock, Gordon Lightfoot and William Deverell have in common? Yes, they are all Canadian (eh?)

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