Asia-Pacific region calls for international action on copyright

published 23 May 2019 updated 24 May 2019

International action is essential in order to address the challenges that educators and researchers face when working with copyright-protected materials. That was the finding of a recent regional seminar on copyright exceptions for education, research, libraries, archives and museums.

The seminar took place in Singapore on 29-30 April and was the first in a series of regional workshops organised by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Education International (EI) participated together with its affiliates, STU, MOVE, and PGRI. To prepare for the event, EI published an infographic that portrays how copyright law affects 10 educational activities in 10 countries in Asia-Pacific.

The discussions on education and research centred on principles of fair access and use of copyrighted work as a fundamental part of the right to education. The conference highlighted, in the strongest possible terms, the importance of access to copyrighted work – analogue, digital, or in any other form - for teaching, learning, and research. Participants referred to the Sustainable Development Goal 4 as a global commitment that requires resources, commitment, and political will. It also requires support for teachers to feel free to prepare and use any resources necessary to teach their students in order to provide quality education.

Together with representatives from Communia, the International Federation of Library Associations, the International Council on Archives, the International Council on Museums, EI stressed that copyright laws often do not match the reality of the concerned sectors and that this needs to be changed so that their public missions can be fulfilled.

Need for copyright reforms

Government delegates acknowledged that copyright laws need to be improved to ensure that educators and researchers can provide quality education and research. Restrictive laws and digital locks were discussed as major obstacles to the right to education and research.

Finally, three out of the four working groups led by governments in the region concluded that an international legal instrument will be essential to address the copyright-related challenges of modern education. Delegates voiced the need for an international instrument not only to address cross-border related challenges, but also to support governments to reform their national legislation. The WIPO, as the international body that can move international copyright legislation forward, can play an important role here.


EI has been advocating for such an approach and recently endorsed a draft treaty on copyright exceptions and limitations for educational and research activities that could be used as a basis of discussion at WIPO.

EI and a delegation of affiliates will be attending all regional WIPO meetings (Kenya, 12-13 June; the Dominican Republic, 4-5 July). As confirmed by the WIPO secretariat, the recommendations of each regional seminar will be reflected in the global conference in October in Geneva, Switzerland. This conference will then provide guidance to WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights on what actions will need to be taken at WIPO in the context of education, research, libraries, archives and museums.