WIPO’s missed opportunity to provide guidance on copyright exemptions is affecting education during the pandemic

A legal instrument on copyright exemptions for the use of materials for teaching, learning, research and the work of cultural heritage organizations is not yet available. According to Education International, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) missed the opportunity in its recent Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) to take a leadership role on this issue.

Education International represented teachers, educational support staff and researchers in the 40thth WIPO-SCCR meeting, which took place from November 16-20. However, the meeting did not provide guidance on COVID-19-related intellectual property challenges for education, research and cultural heritage organizations.

Lack of progress has contributed to a crisis in the use of digital works

In 2012 the SCCR was mandated to work towards a legal instrument on copyright exemptions for the use of materials for teaching, learning, research and the work of cultural heritage organizations. For many years, WIPO experts, researchers and stakeholders have emphasized the importance of governments updating their national laws to regulate the use of digital and other materials and to work on international legislative solutions to international problems. However, progress has stagnated, which has now partially contributed to the crisis in the use of digital works for education and research during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Far-reaching consequences

"In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the subject of copyright restrictions and exemptions has never been more relevant for educational and research purposes," said Tanyaradzwa Manhombo, speaking on behalf of African countries. “Open source health research publications are essential to human collective efforts to find a solution to this global health challenge. In addition, children in developing countries have been denied online access to educational research materials for copyright reasons. "

Education International shared the perspective of teachers going beyond duty to ensure continuity of educational and research activities. However, in the process, teachers were denied access to essential digital materials and forced to work in legal gray areas or use important works if there was a risk of criminal prosecution. “What is legal in the classroom, like reading a story for children, is suddenly illegal when using internet platforms, television stations or telephones. This needs to be addressed urgently. "

Time to get up for WIPO

Education International acknowledged that legislative changes cannot come quickly enough to deal with the difficult situation facing many teachers today. And she called on the SCCR and WIPO, as the UN agency, to give the member states guidelines on how to cope with the challenges of the sector. “We hope that, like other UN agencies, WIPO will commission much-needed guidance in the form of a Declaration on Exceptions and Limitations in Times of COVID-19, as well as studies that examine the challenges faced by teachers and researchers this health emergency, ”said Robert Jeyakumar, MOVE, on behalf of Education International.

While this SCCR did not provide a platform to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and its relevance to the agenda item on exceptions and limitations, Education International hopes that WIPO and its SCCR could be ready to take the lead in drafting a statement and deployment in 2021 the statement to incorporate much-needed guidance.

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