IFLA has released an executive summary of a report that it plans to release in advance of May WIPO SCCR/42, the 42nd meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Standing Committee on Copyright Relations. The report is "How well did copyright laws serve libraries during COVID-19?" The two-page executive summary is available through the IFLA website.
The abstract below provides highlights that will hopefully cause you to review the entire executive summary and then wait anxiously for the full report. One tidbit that stands out to me is that, "Not all was fine pre-pandemic." We knew that, right? I think it means more when survey results from 29 countries point that out. No, it wasn't just you who felt that it is challenging dealing with copyright. It is everyone. The question is: What needs to change to make it better?
The report involved a survey of 114 libraries worldwide and 28 interviews during February and March 2022. Respondents were from 29 countries.
83% of responding library professionals said they had copyright-related challenges providing materials during pandemic-related facility closures. These intersected with ongoing challenges predating the pandemic, including budget pressures, external financial crises, difficult negotiations with publishers, and demand for eBooks that outpaces publisher offerings. While many publishers offered expanded access to services and content during the early months of the pandemic, these offers usually did not last for sufficient time for libraries to meaningfully integrate them into teaching and research activities. 69% of respondents who had challenges said these included issues providing access to textbooks, and 52% of libraries that had copyright challenges indicated challenges with providing access internationally, as students and faculty returned to their home countries. To access content digitally, some libraries made use of programs such as the HathiTrust's Emergency Temporary Access project and ‘Resource-Sharing during COVID’ (RSCVD). Libraries supporting online classrooms faced legal issues around communicating content at a distance. These included whether it was allowed to play music or films in online class settings, as would have been done during in-person classes, or to record lectures that involved copyrighted material. Laws often leave gray zones which create uncertainty about how content can be shared. This points to the need for clarified legal protections for libraries and the services they offer.
The full report is planned to be released in advance of WIPO SCCR/42, the 42nd meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization's Standing Committee on Copyright Relations. IFLA is looking forward to speaking to libraries’ experiences and advocating for strong limitations and exceptions to support their work delivering services and providing access to content.