In collaboraton with Geneva-based research group IQsensato, two ACA2K network members, Tobias Schonwetter (South Africa) and Perihan Abou Zeid (Egypt), represented ACA2K at the 19th meeting of WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR 19) in Geneva, Switzerland, in December. The ACA2K delegation was able to present selected ACA2K research findings to the Africa Group at WIPO, and the ACA2K team’s presentation was well-received, with several members of the Africa Group expressing interest in being briefed in more detail about ACA2K’s findings at a later stage. Furthermore, ACA2K representatives distributed ACA2K’s third Geneva briefing paper, WIPO Briefing Paper 3, to delegates at WIPO.
Based on the briefing paper, ACA2K’s official statement to WIPO was made on the third day of SCCR’s deliberations. Several delegates commended the ACA2K team on the ground-breaking nature of the research and the country delegations of both Kenya and South Africa expressly referred to ACA2K research in their interventions at SCCR.
On the fourth day of SCCR 19, one of the ACA2K representatives joined discussions with the World Blind Union (WBU) and Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) in meetings organised for the African and Arab Group countries. The two meetings focused on exploring and discussing the African and Arab countries' positions regarding the proposed treaty on copyright exceptions and limitations for the visually impaired (TVI).
The focus of WIPO SCCR 19, chaired by Jukka Liedes of Finland, was the issue of copyright exceptions and limitations. The WIPO Secretariat first presented and discussed an analytical document on copyright exceptions and limitations and a revised version of a questionnaire concerning this matter. Even more importantly, five new regional studies on exceptions and limitations for education were introduced. Unlike the other regional studies, however, the African study is unfortunately confined to the issue of teaching and does not look at equally important -- and certainly related -- library and archive exceptions and limitations. It also appears that the study’s results are not always based on the latest laws (eg, in Senegal and Ghana), and at least in South Africa’s case, the Appendix’s summary does not entirely capture the legal status quo. We therefore urge WIPO and/or the authors of the study to make use of ACA2K’s extensive research network to address some of these elements.
Notably, the African Group openly opposed the TVI proposal on the grounds that a more holistic approach is needed in order to generate a more general treaty on copyright exceptions and limitations. It remains an open (tactical) question whether one should, in the interests of achieving clearer and more far-reaching exceptions and limitations (as suggested by ACA2K’s findings), tackle one area of copyright exceptions and limitations after the other in order to get results in the foreseeable future or indeed, whether one should, as the African Group suggested, try to approach the entire subject matter of copyright exceptions and limitations in one general treaty.
Certainly the most emotional debate revolved around the proposed TVI. The personal accounts of blind people and their representatives, particularly the WBU, about the problems they face when trying to access copyright-protected material, visibly moved many of the delegates. It appeared that the majority of speakers were in support of such a treaty. Particularly noteworthy was the supportive statement from the US delegation (more information on the KEI blog). One problem issue raised by the US delegation, by other Member States and by participating NGOs was the issue of cross-border distribution of special format materials for the benefit of visually-impaired persons.
The final conclusions of WIPO SCCR 19 can be found here.
Posting written by Tobias Schonwetter and Perihan Abou Zeid.