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Education issues high on the WIPO agenda

Through statements in plenary, organising a side event, meeting with delegates and collaborating with other civil society actors, Education International has reaffirmed the importance of advancing on international copyright exceptions at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights of the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

The Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) approved an action plan for education, research, persons with disabilities, museums, libraries and archives, during its 36th meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 28 May-1st June.

Education International (EI) argued that copyright exceptions and limitations are essential for achieving the right to quality education and raised concerns regarding what had happened with the draft broadcast treaty, where exceptions were sidelined in the negotiations.

Side event: How WIPO can contribute to achieving the right to education

With the Indonesian Delegation to WIPO, EI co-sponsored a lunch time side event. Moderated by Erry Prasetyo from the Indonesian Permanent Mission in Geneva, it showcased research and other practical examples of how copyright policies impact the work of education institutions and why copyright reform is needed at national and international to achieve the sustainable development goals.

The President of the Indonesian teachers’ union PGRI, Unifah Rosyidi, stressed that for “a developing country, access to quality and affordable teaching and learning materials plays a pivotal role in increasing quality education”. She shared her union’s work on advancing open educational resources through the PGRI Smart Learning Centre, and argued that “it is important to recognise education as a human right and to advance the work at the SCCR on exceptions to facilitate cross-border use of materials and reduce the risk of copyright infringement”.

Teresa Nobre of COMMUNIA presented her research on licenses in Europe showing how license agreements for accessing and using digital works for teaching and learning in Finland, France and the UK often restrict the scope of education exceptions, grant questionable rights to rights holders and impose burdensome obligations on schools. She went on to stress that “copyright exceptions need to be protected from override by contract terms and education institutions need mechanisms to challenge unfair contracts”. This is currently a major debate in the EU, which is about to adopt a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which would allow licenses to replace education exceptions.

On the creators’ side, Brianna Schofield from the Author’s Alliance noted in her presentation that authors also benefit from exceptions and limitations for education and research purposes which “can promote authors’ goals of advancing knowledge, help them to build reputational capital, and increase the impact of their works”. She made the case for a balanced approach to copyright, as it would be beneficial for all, and shared findings from a survey of authors of works in the Georgia State University (GSU) case where publishers sued GSU for copyright infringement.

In his presentation Separating Fact from Fiction: The Reality of Canadian Copyright, Fair Dealing, Michael Geist, Professor at the University of Ottawa and active CAUT member, challenged the claims made by the publishing industry that fair dealing (i.e. Canadian copyright exception) destroys publishing. He provided compelling evidence that “despite claims to the contrary, the Canadian experience indicates that fair dealing can co-exist with a successful commercial publication market. It enhances education and does not replace books and licensing.”

Erry Praseyto from the Indonesia Permanent Commission to WIPO, closed the meeting by stressing that “it is important to take a balanced approach to the discussions on international copyright reform where all stakeholders are consulted in a constructive dialogue and with a basic understanding that access to and fair use of works in education and research is essential for the development of societies.” 

Also, as well summarised by Michael Geist, “the discussion on copyright reform is not a question of licensing or copyright exceptions or Open Educational Resources. We need all three in a good measure to build a fair information ecosystem.” 

Education International strongly believes that the SCCR can and should contribute to establishing this “fair ecosystem” by advancing the development of an international framework on copyright exceptions and limitations.

Draft Broadcasting Treaty: exceptions and limitations sidelined

The meeting also discussed a draft treaty on broadcasting which seeks to address the concerns of broadcasters concerning the piracy of broadcast signals. In an open letter, Civil Society criticised the draft treaty for a number issues such as the suggested 50-year term of protection and post fixation that would go far beyond the term of copyright.  While new exclusive rights for broadcasters are created, user rights are not adequately addressed. Nikola Wachter of EI shared this concern in plenary, insisting that teachers and researchers need to be able to make fair use of broadcasted content for teaching: “A new treaty needs to adequately address exceptions and limitations for education and research purposes.The current draft text is not balanced in this regard and bears the danger of significantly undermining user rights”.

Action plan for education and research institutions and persons with disabilities adopted

On the positive side, the 36th SCCR agreed on an Action Plan on Educational and Research Institutions and Persons with Other Disabilities  setting out a number of activities for 2018-2019:

·         Development of a typology on existing exceptions and limitations for education and research purposes aiming to help identifying and comparing similarities and differences in legislation across countries;

·         Research on digital issues at stake for the activities of educational and research institutions at national and international level; 

·         Update and expand on the Reid/Ncube Scoping Study on Access to Copyright Protected Works by Persons with Disabilities (SCCR/35/3);

·         Inclusive regional seminars on education and research institutions;

·         A global conference on exceptions and limitations that will report back to the SCCR;

·         Hold a SCCR side event related to the subject of persons with other disabilities that are not covered in the Marrakech Treaty.

Education International welcomed the Action Plan and underlined that it will be important to involve education stakeholders in the meetings as well as to work towards a normative agenda for education. In addition, the study on digital issues should not be limited to investigating the availability of MOOCs or distance learning, but address how copyright legislation might affect fair use of digital works as well as online collaboration in education more broadly.

Wachter also stressed that the discussions should not be limited to the use of works in education institutions but that we should rather speak of “educational activities,” reminding the audience that “education does not only take place in the classroom, teachers take their students on field trips or visit cultural heritage institutions.” 

For more information:

·         Civil Society Issues Call For Action On Draft WIPO Copyright Exceptions, Intellectual Property Watch

·         Joint NGO letter to WIPO SCCRCCR delegates expressing grave concerns about proposed WIPO treaty for broadcasting

·         See what member states said about libraries (and education), International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions


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