34th SCCR: A Summary Report

Posted by Anubha Sinha at May 30, 2017 01:30 PM |
The 34th session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) was held from 1st- 5th May 2017 at Geneva, Switzerland. Anubha Sinha attended the session and provides an update on the status of discussions and noteworthy emerging/unsolved debates in the Committee.

Agenda items at this SCCR included 1) Reaching consensus on text of Broadcasting Treaty 2) Discussion on limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, and educational and research institutions and persons with other disabilities 3) Discussion on artist's resale right 4) Discussion on proposal for analysis of copyright related to the digital environment. The Asia-Pacific group was represented by the Indonesian delegation - a break from Indian leadership. In comparison to previous SCCRs, the Indian delegation was less vocal, especially reflected in negotiations around the Broadcasting treaty.

Broadcasting Treaty

The delegations and secretariat (headed by newly appointed Chair, Darren Tang) began discussions in the earnest, keen on presenting a consensus to the UN General Assembly. Two days were spent in hammering out a feeble consensus on Consolidated text on Definitions, Object of Protection, Rights to be Granted and Other Issues. This was done entirely in the informals.[1] There was a high degree of divergence between positions, so much that the draft text ended up with additional language even on issues that had achieved a certain degree of stability. The most intractable issue emerged to be the definition (and inclusion) of deferred transmission.

Observers were not offered an opportunity to present statements, which was alarmingly unfortunate. Delegations are expected to mull over the fresh additions/modifications back home, and will again attempt to streamline the text at the next SCCR (November, 2017).

Limitations and Exceptions on Libraries and Archives

The Committee has been trying to come up with a legally binding instrument on this agenda. No draft text exists, only an informal chart on limitations and exceptions (prepared by the Chair) was used as a framework for discussions.

While African, Asia-Pacific, GRULAC, China and were keen on constructively moving towards a legally binding treaty, other groups/countries were less so.

The Central Europe and Baltic group (CEBS group) expressed that the agenda was best left for member states to legislate at the domestic level; they were willing to go only as far as "exchanging best practices" at this forum and adopting alternative approaches. Anything but a legally binding instrument, basically. EU, similarly positioned, suggested that the Committee should rather explore how existing limitations and exceptions under international treaties could function efficiently.

Argentina pointed out that issues such as cross-border works could not be addressed by the states themselves. Further, Russia said that existing treaties (Berne Convention, Rome Convention, WIPO Internet treaties) did not allow the introduction of the desired limitations and exceptions; and that it would be useful to merge limitations and exceptions on libraries and archives, and research and educational institutions.

Finally, Chile and Nigeria suggested that the Chair's informal chart could perhaps be adopted by the Committee as a working document, which was not met with much enthusiasm. Most states appreciated Dr. Crews' study and indicated that an update on the work would be useful for the Committee.

Limitations and Exceptions on Educational and Research Institutions and for Persons with other Disabilities

Professor Blake Reid and Professor Caroline Ncube and team made a presentation on their scoping study on limitations and exceptions for persons with disabilities (Link here). On the issue of limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions the delegations looked forward to Prof. Daniel Seng's final study (in a future session).  Rest of the discussion was split in a similar fashion as the previous session on libraries and archives.

Notably, the Indian delegation supported the discussions on limitations and exceptions with a view to produce an international instrument.

Artists Resale Right

The discussion around this agenda is in a preliminary stage and Dr. Graddy (Economist, Brandeis International Business School) presented an overview of the same basis a consultation with experts and stakeholders. Artists resale rights provide an artist with the right to receive a royalty based on the resale of an original work of art. Theoretically, resale rights may hurt market competition as they could potentially prompt buyers and sellers to transact in other countries which do not provision for resale royalties, to avoid bearing the cost. Further, buyers may potentially pay less as they may have to pay up when they sell next - as a result the resale right could hurt younger artists more than the older ones. However, a 2008 study of the UK market after the introduction of this resale right revealed no such adverse effects. Dr. Graddy attributed this to the fact that resale royalties were limited to 2% of the sales price or a ceiling of (~500 eur), and in comparison to the auctioneer's commission (15-20%) were not a major cost in the entire transaction.

This proposal was moved by Senegal and Congo (in a previous session), and has been strongly supported by African nations. Most observers were in support as well. Further, resale rights already exist in the European Union and certain other states. USA was vocal about not endorsing a normative instrument on this topic. 

Discussion on Proposal for Analysis of Copyright related to the Digital Environment

This proposal, tabled by GRULAC (at a previous session) stressed on the importance of transparency in remuneration for performers in the digital environment. Several delegations commented on the wide breadth of the proposal and suggested it be narrowed down. USA made a distinction between copyright policy, and marketplace issues such as  remuneration of artists and performers and bargaining power - making it clear that the SCCR should touch upon the former only. A presentation of a study-in-progress followed. The study will examine the national copyright laws relating to digital technology including limitations and exceptions (passed in the last decade or so), and how they govern intermediaries. The final study will be presented in the next session.

CIS' Participation

I made statements on agenda item limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, and GRULAC proposal for analysis of copyright related to the digital environment.

In addition, I participated in a panel discussion on Fixing Copyright for Education alongside Chichi Umesi, First Secretary, Mission Of Nigeria to the United Nations in Geneva; Sean Flynn, PIJIP; Teresa Nobre, Communia; and Delia Browne, Creative Commons Australia / Director, National Copyright Unit (Schools and TAFEs) Australia. The panel covered obstacles to educational uses of works in Europe and the need for opening up related user rights, the ongoing Australian copyright reform debate and the recent interpretation by Indian courts of the reproduction exception for educational purposes in the DU photocopying case (Link to panel discussion material here).

Observer Statements:


A summary by the Chair is available here

[1] Informals are a different kind of negotiation-setting than the plenary and happen privately between delegates and the chair. Observers are provided with an audio feed of the discussion but cannot report anything that is said.