IFRRO Ready to Collaborate with CRSEA in Digital Projects


The International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations, founded in the 1980s as a small working group, has now become an organization with 156 members in more than 85 countries worldwide. We spoke to IFRRO’s Chief Executive Caroline Morgan about the specifics of regional committees and possible ways of cooperation with Confederation of Rightholders’ Societies of Europe and Asia.

– Ms. Morgan, could you tell us more about the history of IFRRO?

– It was only in the 1980s, when photocopiers became widespread, that industries dealing with texts and images started to be concerned about unauthorized copying and reuse of content. As a result, the International Publishers Association and the International Group of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM) formed a working group to consider the issue and study the different national responses. In 1984, the working group became an informal consortium called the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations. In 1988, IFRRO became a formal federation eligible to speak on behalf of its constituents before various international bodies, such as WIPO, UNESCO, regional organizations, and national governments. In 1996, IFRRO adopted a 3-year plan involving the restructuring and expansion of its activities in many areas. In particular, it was decided to create an IFRRO Development Fund to finance special projects and assist new Collective Management Organizations (CMOs). In 1998, the IFRRO Secretariat established its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and today we are honored to host a total of 156 members of IFRRO in more than 85 countries worldwide.

– What do you think is the most significant achievement of the organization during its existence?

– I believe that the key achievement for IFRRO has been to bring the issue of the impact of unauthorized reproduction of text and images on the livelihood of authors and publishers to the attention of national and international law makers, and to establish that they need to act to manage the issue. We have done this through creating a strong and effective network of national, regional, and international CMOs and authors and publishers’ associations, and by demonstrating the value that management of copyright in text and images can have, all along the value chain, from facilitating access for users to compensating creators and publishers.

– What are the most pressing issues on the agenda of IFRRO as an organization that lobbies for the interests of rightholders in the field of text and visual art?

– IFRRO has three main objectives: first, we are a forum where our members meet, exchange information, and learn from each other about new business models. Second, we work to represent them and advocate for strong copyright policies before national governments, regional organisations, and international organisations such as WIPO. Third, we actively work to help new CMOs develop their potential, and also to create CMOs in countries where there are none, when the rightsholders and governments so wish.

As for the current issues, the first one is adapting existing licensing schemes to the digital world: in many countries, collective agreements are often paper based, having grown out of the photocopying challenge, and we have to make sure that they are adapted to the needs of the digital environment. Second, reaping in the benefits of the blockchain technology and Artificial Intelligence to ensure a fast, seamless and accurate distribution system. IFRRO’s members in Canada Access Copyright and Copibec are developing very interesting tools in this regard. Third, continuing to advocate the value of copyright and the need for strong copyright protection: I believe that free access to copyright-protected works does not mean access for free. Existing remuneration systems should be protected, and other rights such as the resale right and public lending right should be too.

– IFRRO has three regional committees: Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin-America-Caribbean. How do you organize the work with these committees? What are the specifics of each of them?

– IFRRO’s three regional committees have been established to assist local rightholders of published material in guaranteeing copyright protection of their works through collective management. They unite the IFRRO CMO members in each continent, under the leadership of a Chair. They usually meet twice a year – and since the start of the pandemic, they have all held virtual meetings. Although their objective are generally the same, the reality of collective management differs from one country to another and this is also reflected in the work of the committees. The Asia-Pacific Committee has a focus on the challenges of technology, and the new business models that they can realise for rightsholders. The African Committee has, lately, been focusing on the implementation of the private copying compensation across the continent, as we have seen many African countries wanting to introduce such compensation. The Latin American – Caribbean Committee gives a particular emphasis to copyright enforcement, given that infringement and book piracy remain an important problem on the continent.

IFRRO also has a European Group which is dedicated to European matters – with a strong interest in European Union developments. As you know, the EU is a close, integrated community, with 13 directives and regulations in the area of copyright, forming the core copyright law of the Union. However, this group has a wider European remit, and is active in national matters in countries within and outside the EU. Linked to the work of this group, we have an informal grouping of our newly emergent European CMO members, including those from the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region. Most of the CMOs in this group have been created in recent years, so an important part of the work is to sensitise national authorities to the importance of collective management, and to build their capacity to manage licensing and distribution functions.

– In your opinion, how should the interaction between IFRRO and CRSEA develop further? Does IFRRO already have partners in CIS countries, and does it plan to create a regional committee with the participation of these countries?

We are glad and honored that CRSEA has joined our federation this year. I can see a number of ways for us to collaborate. First, CRSEA and IFRRO both want that their member CMOs grow and collect more remuneration for the rightsholders. There is potential here for joint projects and activities, driven by the CMOs, and with support and expertise provided by our two organizations. Second, I can see that CRSEA has a particular interest in the field of digital rights management, with the impressive IT solutions developed and offered to CMOs. We are interested in learning more about this and discussing with CRSEA how CMOs in the text and image sector can benefit from these solutions. Third, in a number of CIS countries, governments are revising their copyright laws to make them more fit to the digital age: CRSEA and IFRRO should work with them to ensure that the new legislations offer the best framework for collective management to flourish. In this respect, we are hopeful that the new Armenian copyright legislation will give a strong basis for educational licensing, private copying compensation and public lending right.

Of the 9 CIS countries, IFRRO has members in four of them: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Russia. We also work very closely with our Armenian counterparts. Members in these countries would usually attend the meetings of the informal IFRRO Eastern European grouping that I mentioned earlier.

I have witnessed myself how the landscape has changed in the region, from my first visit to Russia at the end of the 1980s to my most recent visit to Moscow in 2017, where we had a series of meetings at the State Duma. Collective management has been completely rebuilt, or is in the process of changing, in a number of CIS countries. We have seen a move from central organizations to a multitude of CMOs and now, in some countries, a move towards a centralization of collective management once again. Ultimately and whatever the form, the key aspect is that funds are properly collected and distributed to the right author and to the right publisher.

– Your organization also cooperates with UNESCO. What does it involve?

IFRRO was granted Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) status with UNESCO in 2009. Since then we held a number of joint activities together. IFRRO has been particularly involved in the work of UNESCO’s NGOs Liaison Committee, on issues such as the protection of intangible heritage. It is our wish to deepen our partnership with UNESCO in the years to come.

Another key partner for us is WIPO. IFRRO signed a cooperation agreement with WIPO and for over two decades, we have worked together in many ways, in establishing CMOs, developing good governance rules, facilitating the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty, as well as publishing a number of joint booklets about reprography.

– What are the most important points of development for IFRRO for the upcoming period?

The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically affected the CMOs’ collections, the sales of the publishing industry at large, and ultimately the individual creators and publishers. At the moment, IFRRO is entirely focused on two missions: supporting our CMO members who are struggling, and encouraging governments to give to the cultural sector the help that it needs. Accessing culture during the lockdown period was a safety valve for millions of us, who could find peace, hope and happiness reading the books we like and enjoying our favourite music. Yet the cultural sector, one of the hardest hit by the crisis, is often not given priority in recovery plans. We are working to change that.

In terms of specific focus points, I mentioned the private copying compensation earlier – we have launched a number of initiatives, including a partnership with CISAC and WIPO in West Africa. In Africa, we are also working with our members on the distribution of copyright royalties to journalists and press publishers. In August this year, the press sector in Burkina Faso will, for the first time, receive a remuneration from the CMO.

The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market recently adopted by the EU includes provisions on the digitisation of out-of-commerce works, and we are preparing a guide to help IFRRO members navigate through the implementation of these provisions. It will be published in the coming weeks. We have also launched in early July a website called “Content for Education”, which explains the importance of collective licensing in the educational sector, with interesting testimonials by authors and publishers from all across Europe.

In Latin America and Asia-Pacific, we are working with the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, Malaysia and Peru to establish CMOs, through a series of projects starting this year and next year.