Days 1 and 2
Sometimes it happens that when you hear a lot of positive comments about an event. Your expectations rise, and you get disappointed once you see the reality.
At last week’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), organised by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, many delegates asked for educational materials to be made copyright free.
It’s over. There were a few last-minute huddles of regional groups and Member States to thrash out possible compromises on agreed wording, but the 36th meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) came to a close this afternoon.
Day 4 of SCCR is the second day focussing on the Draft Action Plans (DAPs) and Exceptions and Limitations (Es and Ls, check out our jargon buster). The day started out with another round of comments from groups, Member States and observers and featured the same the mix of opinions as yesterday.
After almost a complete day yesterday with the plenary chamber empty because of ‘informals’ on the Broadcasting Treaty, there was more action this morning. Chairman Daren Tang recognised yesterday’s positive momentum on the Broadcasting Treaty before moving discussions on to exceptions and limitations and the proposed draft action plans (DAPs).
Day 2 of this 36th session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights started with an almost empty plenary room, save a handful of NGOs, as the Members States continued their ‘informals’ from last night, with the NGOs following the discussions from the plenary room, without being able to relay them to anyone.
The 36th session of World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (check our jargon buster here) kicked off today in Geneva. As well as the 191 Members States who can attend, there are about 60 NGOs registered and participating (including the IPA, STM, IFRRO and others from the Creative Sector Organisations group that IPA coordinates).
The uncensored book fair of Iranian independent publishers
Every year, early in May, Iranian publishers have the busiest time of the year with the Tehran International Book Fair being held for a period of ten days in the capital. All publishers - except those who have been banned due to previous violations - gather from across the country.
At this year’s Leipzig Book Fair, IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee chairman, Kristenn Einarsson, joined Hungarian publisher and IPA 2018 Prix Voltaire nominee, Tamas Miklos, as well as German publisher Christoph Links to discuss Europe and Freedom of Expression. Freedom to Publish was a visible issue at the Congress with the Börsenverein promoting its “Für das Wort und die Freiheit” campaign and putting a giant #FreeGuiMinhai hashtag on the central staircase.
While the conversation didn’t stop at the borders of Europe it was interesting to hear that some freedom to publish challenges are closer to home than many Europeans think.
The final day of the Congress started with a detailed look at 'Book Markets in India'. Emma House, Deputy CEO of the PA UK, spoke about the size and importance of each publishing sector and the variety of languages (India has 22 official languages but Hindi and English make up 90% of publications). André Breedt of Nielsen noted, educational publishing dominates the Indian market. Local publisher Himanshu Gupta (S Chand) claimed that Indian publishers are embracing digital as an enabler for hybrid learning. He was supported by Vikas Gupta of Wiley, who called on publishers to become platforms for smart digital content.
I had the honour to chair a session on the second day of the Congress entitled : " Creating readers of the future". My panelists came from diverse backgrounds and represented almost half of the global publishing industry. All of them experts in the children's book market, I was curious to know whether children in Brazil had better access to books than children in China or India or vice versa.
Why should publishers care? A group of outstanding speakers tried to answer this question during the session I had the honour to chair on “Social Responsibility of Publishers”.
After yesterday's intense high-level discussions about the future of publishing, copyright and freedom to publish, the second day began with a series of panels about the nitty gritty of publishing and finished with an emotional roller coaster and two standing ovations.
A full 26 years after the previous IPA Congress in New Delhi, we're back with a great programme. This will be the first of our daily blogs over the next 3 days.
The day started with a traditional candle lighting ceremony, before the Minister for Science and Technology, Dr Harsh Vardhan, arrived to launch the day's proceedings. IPA President Michiel Kolman gave a keynote address where he called on the publishing industry to stop being defensive and to shout about the industry's many successes, sentiments that were echoed by FIP President, NK Mehra.
Just 4 days to go until the beginning of this year’s International Publishers Congress, back in New Delhi after a 26-year break.
The full programme is now online and is packed with interesting discussions on all aspects of the publishing industry.
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.
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.