Advocating for a library treaty

EIFL advocates for an international copyright framework that supports libraries whereever they are in the world

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Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights in session at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights in session at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Photo credit: WIPO


Digital technologies have changed the world offering new ways to create and disseminate information, to research and to learn. Libraries have new opportunities to serve readers and communities in creative and innovative ways. But outdated copyright laws prevent people from benefiting.

While copyright laws in some countries are being modernized, in many developing and transition economy countries, the rules for accessing and using content are often restrictive, especially for digital formats. Overly restrictive copyright laws create legal barriers to using materials for education, research and socio-economic development.

User rights in copyright laws (also known as limitations and exceptions) must evolve so that libraries everywhere can support online education, open science practices and the use of digital research tools. And because world-class science and research is international and collaborative, our information infrastructure must be underpinned by an interoperable copyright framework with clear rules on cross-border uses of information.

the need for international action

National copyright laws are governed by international treaties and agreements. For this reason, we need an updated international copyright framework that is fair and progressive, creates consistency for libraries whereever they are in the world, and supports cross-border research and information sharing.

EIFL advocates at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an intergovernmental organization that sets global copyright rules, for an international framework that supports library activities and services. WIPO alone has the mandate to set global standards, and only WIPO can address cross-border issues.

The topic of limitations and exceptions (L&Es) has been on the agenda at WIPO's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) since 2004, see here for a timeline. A key achievement of the L&E agenda item was the adoption in 2013 of the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities. The Marrakesh Treaty requires ratifying countries to have exceptions in domestic copyright law for the making and distribution of accessible format copies, and the sending of accessible copies across borders. It is an example of how WIPO action can create targeted exceptions that are effective and that work across borders. And as WIPO's most popular treaty to date, Marrakesh shows how the copyright system can be made to work for people and the institutions that serve them. 

SCCR continues to discuss L&Es for libraries and archives, education and research institutions, and for persons with other disabilities (other than print disabilities).


  • EIFL has observer status at WIPO. We participate in sessions of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) where we actively engage with member states, explain how copyright affects the work of libraries, support proposals that advance the L&E agenda, and make presentations at SCCR side events. We also make interventions during meetings. Since 2005, we have delivered 100+  interventions during SCCR and the WIPO Assemblies. As a result, policy-makers are aware of library copyright issues and well informed about the library viewpoint. Read EIFL interventions here.
  • We develop background papers on library copyright issues and propose library-friendly solutions to assist member states in their discussions. Consequently, WIPO member states have made 36 proposals in support of libraries on eleven topics including digital preservation, library lending and contracts. Read the WIPO member state proposals here.
  • We support librarians from EIFL partner countries to attend WIPO sessions to raise awareness among policy-makers about library and information services in their countries, and to make the case for change. Librarians from Armenia, Latvia, Malawi, Moldova, Poland, Senegal, Uganda, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe participated for the first time in SCCR sessions. Read Librarians participating in policy-making.
  • We mobilize our network of EIFL copyright coordinators to engage with their national copyright officials in support of library advocacy at WIPO.
  • We developed a draft treaty on copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, (known as TLIB) to assist WIPO member states in discussions, in cooperation with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the International Council of Archives (ICA) and Innovarte. TLIB establishes basic international standards for library activities and ensures equal treatment of digital and print resources.


We have come to WIPO to ask for your help so that libraries and archives in every part of the world have exceptions to carry out their institutional mandate in fulfillment of public policies set by governments – policies on national cultural heritage, education and research, literacy and social inclusion, economic development and employment. And to fulfill these policies in the digital environment
EIFL statement at SCCR/28, July 2014