Library copyright statutes around the world: record global attendance at EIFL webinar
Participants from a record 28 countries participated in an EIFL copyright webinar led by global expert Prof. Kenneth Crews

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International copyright expert, Professor Kenneth D. Crews, led a webinar hosted by EIFL on 5 February 2016 on 'Library copyright statutes around the world: trends and developments'.

Prof. Crews, author of the WIPO study on copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives (2015), set out the connection between libraries and copyright, reviewed examples of library provisions in no fewer than 25 countries, and looked at challenges for the future.

Quicklink: download the webinar slides (pdf) or view the presentation (42 mins).

Dominant library issues

The two dominant library issues in domestic copyright laws, according to the study findings, relate to preservation & replacement and copies for research & study. Other common library activities that give rise to copyright questions include inter-library document supply, lending, 'making available' on dedicated terminals, mass digitization, orphan works, and serving the needs of persons with disabilities.

During the webinar, the scope of exceptions for the benefit of libraries were examined in more detail, as well as the conditions of use. For example, in some countries, only published works may be copied (what about unpublished, archival material?). In others, copying is limited to paper (what about digital technologies?). In some others, the exception can be exercised only if a collective licence is not available (therefore the library should undertake to check each time).

Relatively few innovations

While innovations in statutes are relatively few, the laws of some countries show some movement. For example, Canada has expanded the application of inter-library loan and research copies. The UK has also eased the limits on research copying, and has broadened the types of works that can be copied by a library. The Russian Federation has taken advantage of digital technologies, while France and Japan allow the National Library to digitize works and make them available at regional and local libraries. The copyright law of Poland, enacted after the WIPO study was published, also introduced amendments for the benefit of libraries and education.

Australia gets the prize for having one of the longest library statutes. While the detailed provisions may be cumbersome to apply, they do at least provide some answers as to what libraries may and may not do.

Credit also goes to the European Union that adopted a directive for the re-use of orphan works, works where the rightsholder cannot be identified and/or located. Although there are problems with the directive, it is at least a step in the right direction.

Overarching provisions were also discussed: the three-step test in national law (it shouldn’t be there), and fair use (a powerful tool for the overall application of the law).

Challenges ahead

The challenges ahead for libraries are making sure that the law keeps up with new technologies and modern library services. Such issues include addressing digitization especially for preservation purposes, digital first sale rights (the ability of a library to acquire or lend a digital work in the same way as printed works), and the cross-border transfer of materials, for example, in support of education and research.

During the session, the statutes of 25 countries were examined i.e. Algeria, Armenia, Belarus, Botswana, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Ghana, Hungary, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Maldives, Moldova, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, UK and the US.

The webinar was attended by 56 participants from 28 countries – Albania, Armenia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Colombia, Croatia, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Namibia, Nepal, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the UK, the US, and Zimbabwe. Participants from a further 16 countries registered their interest in the webinar, that's almost a quarter of WIPO member states.

Presentation available, Q&A coming soon

Unfortunately technology let us down during the Q&A that couldn't be completed on the day. However, Prof. Crews will record answers to the questions that came up. These will be made available online as a supplement to the presentation.

In addition, in recognition of the strong global interest in the topic, Prof. Crews has agreed to a follow-up session during his next visit to Europe in April. Watch this space!

A very big thanks to Prof. Crews and to all the participants, especially those who joined from the US and other far away time zones.

Recommended reading

WIPO study on copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives (2015)

'Time for a single global copyright framework for libraries and archives' by Teresa Hackett, EIFL Copyright and Libraries Programme Manager, WIPO Magazine (December 2015 issue) available here or here (pdf).

EIFL Draft Law on Copyright (2014)

Download the webinar slides (pdf) or view the presentation (42 mins). Tip: pause the recording, fast forward or select individual slides.