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Slow progress on copyright in education and research at the World Intellectual Property Organisation

Advancing an international copyright exception for education and research and involving education unions in related discussions were the key messages imparted by Education International (EI) to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

EI outlined these core concepts at the 37th session of the WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), held from 26 November – 1 December in Geneva, Switzerland.

EI also promoted the recently endorsed civil society proposed treaty on exceptions and limitations for educational and research activities (TERA) that carefully balances the rights of creators and facilitates quality education and research. TERA is based on the important work done in the SCCR and would guarantee teachers, education support personnel, and researchers an equal minimum right to, for instance, play a piece of music in music class, perform a theatre play with students, copy parts of textbooks, or analyse news videos in a lecture without having to pay or ask permission from the author.

In addition, TERA would facilitate collaboration and exchange between teachers and researchers from different countries without the fear of copyright infringement. Access to works for teaching is part of the right to education and it requires global action to achieve this.

EI hopes that TERA will inform the discussions at the SCCR regional seminars scheduled to occur under the 2019 Action Plan on Educational and Research Institutions and Persons with Other Disabilities.

EI brought the voice of education unions to the heart of the SCCR and engaged in dialogue with delegates and the SCCR secretariat. It also co-sponsored a side event along with other civil society actors, Toward Action with Respect to the Limitations and Exceptions Regime: Looking Forward to SCCR Regional Seminars.


In 2012, the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights agreed to work toward “an appropriate international legal instrument or instruments (whether model law, joint recommendation, treaty and/or other forms)” for libraries, archives, museums, education, research, and persons with other disabilities.

It is important that the activities planned as part of the action plans work towards this mandate.  “Restrictive copyright regimes and, in fact, the lack of an international copyright instrument that addresses cross-border online collaboration and exchange do not empower teachers, education support personnel and researchers,” said Nikola Wachter of Education International. “Instead, they create barriers for the daily work of education.”

Normative work

Normative work at the international level would not only promote national-level copyright reforms, but also enable modern education where teachers and researchers collaborate across education institutions within one country but also across borders.  

So far, industrial countries in particular have opposed normative work. Teresa Nobre, COMMUNIA – the European Thematic Network on the Digital Public Domain, called on governments in those countries “to soften their position and support global copyright reform in order to contribute to making quality education a reality for all”.  

Consult education stakeholders

In order for the regional meetings to be a success, EI has stressed the importance of ensuring a balanced representation with equal numbers of participants from all stakeholders at the meetings. The stakeholders include the fields of education, research, libraries, archives, museums, publishers, and other rights-holder organisations.

Since the regional seminars will focus on education, research, and disabilities, it is essential to ensure that education unions participate and share how copyright creates barriers for teaching, learning, and research. It is also vital that they outline how legislation can be improved to ensure inclusive quality education and research as stipulated in human rights conventions as well as the Sustainable Development Agenda.

Develop principles towards normative work at regional seminars

EI and a number of other civil society actors raised concerns that the regional seminars should not be used to slow down the work of the SCCR, but rather work towards the fulfilment of the 2012 mandate. For instance, this could be done by using the regional seminars for a nuanced regional discussion on the issues at stake and to develop a set of principles that guide the SCCR in advancing normative work on education.

EI hopes that the WIPO member states will take action towards a global commitment to make copyright work for education and research.


EI’s general opening statement can be accessed here.


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