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WIPO General Assemblies 2016 — stocktaking before the next big copyright sit-down

by in Publishing industry
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The Geneva-based World Intellectual Property (WIPO) has now closed its 56th Assemblies of the Member States, which took an interim look at various areas of strategic interest to publishers.

The goal of the meetings, from 3-11 October, were decisions about the function of the various treaty-setting committees, budgetary allocations, internal governance and a number of other strategic matters affecting the UN’s dedicated IP agency.

Of greatest interest to publishers is the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). As reported in the IPA blog in May, this is the forum where Member States try to agree on ways to address limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, as well as for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities.

However, as I also reported in spring, the biggest SCCR stumbling block is the elusive broadcasting treaty, which has been gathering dust on the table since 1996. Worryingly, the inability of delegations to agree on this one agenda item after two decades increases the risk of it being used as a bargaining chip in deliberations over the others.

The second matter affecting publishers is the Marrakesh Treaty, which came into force on 30 September. On 5 October, the attendant Marrakesh Assembly met for the first time, basically to celebrate the Treaty — which is seen as the standout WIPO triumph — and its huge impact on the lives of blind and other print disabled people.

Gurry meets WBU at WIPOAddressing the chamber, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry described Marrakesh as one of the ‘great successes of the organization in its 130-year history’, before delegates clamoured to praise the treaty and WIPO. A new WIPO video was also shown during the proceedings (featuring IPA Secretary General José Borghino) about the making of Marrakesh and its impact.      

(Above, WIPO DG Francis Gurry meets WBU delegation during Assemblies 2016.© WIPO)

Speaking at the opening of the WIPO Assemblies, Gurry had already applauded the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC), an essential instrument in the implementation of Marrakesh that the IPA cofounded with WIPO, the WBU and IFLA.

During that speech he said: ‘We have also made significant progress with the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC), a partnership of all relevant stakeholders that supports practically the aims of the Marrakesh Treaty through the exchange of books in accessible formats, capacity building and the promotion of accessible publishing. ABC has so far facilitated the loans of accessible books to 100,000 visually impaired people through its 19 participating libraries in 16 countries. It currently contains 319,000 titles in more than 76 languages. Participating libraries saved USD 11 million in production costs (for a book read aloud by a person) by being able to download 5,500 electronic books into their collections.’

In other WIPO news, the agency’s new Deputy Director General for the Copyright and Creative Industries Sector (previously the Culture and Creative Industries Sector), Sylvie Forbin, has taken up her post in Geneva. The IPA looks forward to working with Ms Forbin.

Aside from the regular one-to-one meetings that the IPA has with WIPO decision makers and Member Delegations, the next major WIPO encounter will be SCCR 33, from 14-18 November, from where I will again post daily reports here.

WIPO General Assemblies 2016 press release.

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Ben Steward became the IPA's Director of Communications and Freedom to Publish in February 2016.


After leaving the UK, where he had been a newspaper journalist, Ben joined the Geneva-based European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the world’s biggest alliance of public service broadcasters, where he worked for eight years as a news editor then communications officer in the Public Affairs Department. From 2014 to 2016 he served as the speechwriter and communications aide to the leadership of MSC Cruises, the world's fourth biggest cruise company. 

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Guest Thursday, 23 November 2017