Monday 15 August 2016

IFLA WLIC 2016 - Day One

This is the fifth in a series of post about my experience of IFLA WLIC 2016. Other posts can be found here. This post marks the start of my attendance at the conference.

When they tell you that these conferences can be overwhelming, they're not kidding! IFLA is BIG. Fortunately it's also friendly and there are plenty of volunteers to point you in the right direction if you get lost.

Newcomers session
The first session I attended was aimed specifically at those who were attending IFLA for the first time. It was a useful session to get an overview of the way things worked and information about our host city. As part of her address, IFLA president Donna Scheeder reminded us that everyone who sits on the board of IFLA was once a newcomer to the conference. You never know what might happen in the future! The session was also really valuable as it meant I could see how many other newbies there were in attendance - reassuring in such a daunting environment.
Opening ceremony
I'm not sure what I expected from the opening ceremony - maybe the usual welcoming remarks and wishes for a nice time in Columbus. We certainly got that but also a lot more. I've never been to a conference opening where there were dancing sweets and a real live penguin! The opening ceremony showcased the best of Columbus through history and even included a message from Barack Obama welcoming us to the US. Very impressive!

Photos from the event (which are better than anything I managed to take) can be seen here.
Copyright Matters: Libraries and National Copyright Reform Initiatives
This session on copyright took up most of the afternoon. The aim of the session was to look at copyright and its exceptions in a global context by highlighting the challenges faced by different countries.

Kenneth D Crews from WIPO has recently conducted a study into copyright and exceptions in countries worldwide. He spoke of how the mission of libraries and the mission of copyright is intertwined - copyright works to encourage the creation and dissemination of knowledge in a safe way whilst libraries work to provide access to this knowledge. In many countries exceptions to copyright for libraries are an integral part of copyright law different countries use them in different ways. This lack of consistency often leads to confusion for both librarians and users. There is also the digital challenge to deal with - copyright laws have traditionally been drawn up specifically to deal with analogue methods of copying. This is obviously out of date now and countries need to work together to come up with coherent solutions to the problem.

Nancy E. Weiss talked about the US experience. Weiss is Senior Advisor to the Chief Technology Officer for Innovation and IP, The White House, United States. She talked about how in the information society there is a greater need than ever before to preserve digital information. This goes hand in hand with users' who have an evolving view of the services that libraries should provide. The US government is currently looking at copyright law, particularly in relation to areas such as Open Educational Resources which have become a trend in recent years. The US is one of the lucky countries where fair use policy has helped in a number of areas where flexibility is needed.

Jessica Coates from Australia talked abut the advances being made in terms of access for people with disabilities. Although these rules are not yet mandatory, Australia are making voluntary best practice changes and hope other countries will follow their example. The country is also looking at preservation, safe harbours (extends ISP protection to online providers such as libraries), ending perpetual copyright for unpublished works and simplifying copyright for educational purposes. Given that the Australian Copyright Law is over 700 pages long anything that simplifies it must be a good thing!

At the other end of the spectrum was Mya OO from Myanmar National Library in a country recently emerging from a 50 year period of military rule. They currently use the 1914 copyright law which carries no explicit exceptions for libraries. Fair dealing for private research and review is allowed, works are protected for life of the author plus 30 years and there is no protection for foreign works. A proposed new law has been under review since 2012 and will hopefully make progress soon. Challenges in Myanmar include low bandwidth, lack of consistent IP addresses and the changing role of the library. Mya OO highlighted the need for libraries to be involved in policy making when it comes to copyright as they are familiar with their users' needs.

Finally Monika Mitera talked about the situation in Poland (site of next year's IFLA congress). Poland was the first country to have a copyright law which captured the concept of 'work' as the subject matter of copyright and is working hard to apply amendments to deal with digital material. Mitera  also highlighted the Copyright Forum - a group which brings together stakeholders to discuss laws and suggest changes that are needed. She also talked about the fact that not all libraries are viewed as educational institutions - something which has implications for copyright.

In conclusion it was shown that there is no one best model for copyright that will suit everyone but the better solutions move us all towards a worthwhile solution. It was also noted that all copyright legislation falls short when it comes to digital preservation - a problem libraries need to work to address.

Exhibition opening party
The final part of the day was devoted to the opening of the exhibition and poster sessions. Anyone who has ever been to a conference with an exhibition will know the feeding frenzy that happens when freebies are on offer. I talked to a couple of vendors and poster presenters but will go back and have a proper look another day as I was tired out.

Overall the first day was a success. Role on day two....

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