SCCR24: Plenary statement of Brazil urging WIPO to advance its negotations on a Treaty for the Visually Impaired (19 July 2012)

This statement was delivered by Brazil on 19 July 2012 in the plenary of the 24th session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). In this statement, Brazil stressed that negotiations on a Treaty for Visually Impaired Persons not be linked to discussions on a treaty for the protection of broadcasting organizations.

Mr Chairman,

Before text-based work starts on the drafting of a legal instrument establishing copyright exceptions and limitations for persons with print disabilities, I think we should put negotiations on this issue into historical perspective. This seems to be needed at this stage for at least two reasons:

• The first reason is that most people directly involved in the drafting and approval at the SCCR, in November 2010, of the current work program on exceptions and limitations are not here today. The natural rotation of officers among delegations to the SCCR can unfortunately contribute to the loss of collective and institutional memory;

• The second reason, and closely linked to the first one, is the fact that there seems to be a good deal of misunderstanding in the air about the process we are engaged in here. Rumor seems to be prevailing over facts. Even serious specialized media that are usually well informed on on-going IP discussions in international organizations seem to be misinformed and thereby fueling, even inadvertently, this hot air. I was surprised to read in one of them, IP-Watch, that a “secretive ‘intersessional’ process” on a treaty for the visually impaired” was going on in the run up to this session. I told them, of course, that Brazil is not aware of any secretive process. Let me now share information with all of you on the nature of the process as we see it from the angle of my delegation, one that, from the very beginning, has been directly involved in the negotiations as one of the chief “demandeurs” on behalf of organizations gathering blind people across the world.

We must set the record straight if we wish to make progress, as I believe all of us here wish.

Let me first say that all relevant information on the entire process of negotiations, including proposals by member countries, can be found in the reports of the SCCR which are fully available to anyone interested in WIPO’s website. This history so far is there for anyone to see.

The work program adopted in November 2010 provides for the negotiation of international instrument or instruments in four areas, following a global and inclusive approach while, at the same time, recognizing the need to advance the more mature areas. The work program has always been negotiated and approved as a sequential or incremental undertaking. Moving forward according to different levels of maturity has never meant proceeding according to different levels of priority.

Since the approval of the work program, negotiations on exceptions and limitations for people with print disabilities, recognized as the more mature area from the start, evolved swiftly. Considerable progress was made in relatively short time, in spite of differences regarding the scope of the E and L and the nature of the instrument under negotiation. Indeed, by June 2011 a limited set of issues stood on the way to the conclusion of an international instrument. Let me say that to help that process, interested delegations met informally during the first half of 2011, twice at the Brazilian Mission. Brazil always invited several delegations and anyone interested was more than welcome. We always wanted a multilateral instrument that includes all parties.

In the SCCR session held last year, more work was undertaken which resulted in working document SCCR/23/7. This was and remains the basis for your text-based work staring today.

What has happened since the last session of the SCCR is the following.

In a spirit to help further advance the negotiations, some delegations including Brazil, the EU, Mexico and the United States decided to meet informally to try to narrow down differences on the basis of the existing working document – I repeat, on the basis of the existing working document SCCR/23/7. Brazil hosted one of those informal meetings. The European Union hosted another, to which were invited countries from all WIPO groups: GRULAC, Group B, the African Group, Asian Group and the Group of Central, Asian, Caucasus and Eastern European States.

In order to ensure transparency, consistency and continuity, the then incoming chairman of the SCCR, Mr. Darlington Mwape from Zambia, also invited and attended the informal meetings.

The results of the meeting, in the form of possible amendments to certain provisions of the working document, were circulated to participating countries with no restriction whatsoever to its distribution among other Members. We are looking forward to sharing those results with all members during this session of the SCCR.

Mr Chairman,

I venture to say that the swift progress in the VIP negotiations was made possible because of a strong underlying consensus prevails among Members concerning the special nature of the issue we are negotiating. It is a copyrights issue that has a clear human rights dimension: the need to ensure that copyright is not a barrier to equal access to information, culture, and education for people with print disabilities and other reading disabilities.

Negotiations so far have focused on technical and juridical aspects of the proposals and the working document. Throughout these almost three years of negotiations, we saw no proposals to establish any conditional linkages between the negotiations on the treaty for the visually impaired, on the one hand, and negotiations under other topics the SCCR agenda or in other bodies of WIPO.

Any such linkages would not be justifiable on ethical grounds when the issue at stake benefits a category of disabled persons. Members that did not have an offensive interest in the audiovisual performances treaty, such as Brazil, acknowledged that it should be concluded before the instrument for persons with print disabilities. In fact, this session of the SCCR has been postponed and is taking place in July for only one reason: that some delegations expressed a preference that Beijing Conference should take place before the SCCR so as to remove any possible barrier for the approval of the AVP Treaty, now the Beijing Treaty.

Mr Chairman,

The more advanced area of negotiations today in the SCCR is that of exceptions and limitations for persons with print disabilities. We should avoid any attempt at striking a supposed “balance” between this area and the protection of broadcasting organizations. There is no possible cross-linkage between an instrument with a clear human rights dimension and one motivated by essentially business interests. The only effect of possibly tying the two issues will be to undermine the confidence built in WIPO process in Beijing and to threaten to block the whole SCCR agenda.

This happened in the first half of 2010, when the SCCR ended with no agreed conclusions at all. We should avoid that happening again. For this reason, let us not hide behind supposed flaws in process. There are no such difficulties in process. Let us instead move positively towards the conclusion of a legal instrument on exceptions and limitations for persons with print disabilities.

Thank you

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