Library associations applaud U.S. statement on copyright exceptions at WIPO

Contact: Jenni Terry

Press Officer

ALA Washington Office


For Immediate Release

December 16, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) strongly supports the
statement made on December 15, 2009, by Justin Hughes, head of the U.S. delegation at the session of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) in Geneva, Switzerland. Hughes expressed support for library-endorsed international copyright policies during his speech on copyright exceptions and limitations for persons with print disabilities.

Hughes stated that the strength of United States copyright law is in part due to exceptions in the law for education, libraries and the disabled. Hughes said the United States has these exceptions because “access to information, cultural expression, and ideas is essential,” and that governments have a role to play in facilitating access and reducing barriers to information, education and full participation in a democratic society. He continued that the United States is “committed to policies that ensure everyone has a chance to get the information and education they need and to live independently as full citizens in their communities.”

Hughes’ comments were met with thunderous applause at the international assembly.

The Library Copyright Alliance consists of the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). LCA attends the WIPO sessions as a non-governmental organization, and has been pushing for international treaties and other mechanisms to increase access to information, most recently for the visually impaired around the world who have very limited access to reading materials in accessible formats. A significant part of the problem is the legal uncertainty around cross-border sharing of copies. An international treaty to allow cross border sharing is essential to meet the needs of the visually impaired, 90 percent of whom live in developing countries.

The U.S. delegation also noted that some in the international copyright community “believe that any international consensus on substantive limitations and exceptions to copyright law would weaken international copyright law. The United States does not share that point of view. The United States is committed to both better exceptions
in copyright law and better enforcement
of copyright law.”

Carrie Russell, Director of the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy’s Program on Public Access to Information, said Hughes’ statement demonstrates that leadership in the White House is maintaining its emphasis on the importance of ensuring access for all.

“President Obama, in his November 16, 2009, speech at the Museum of Science and Technology in Shanghai, declared that access to information is a universal right that should be available to all people. The policy articulated by the U.S. delegation at WIPO flows directly from this declaration.”

The LCA praises the U.S. delegation for its very thoughtful and positive statement in support of an international consensus on cross-border distribution and on specific limitations and exceptions for print disabled persons.