The following is a guest post by Zhao Zhao, summer law clerk in the Office of Policy and International Affairs
The U.S. Copyright Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) successfully hosted the 2018 International Copyright Institute (ICI) from June 4–8, 2018, in Washington, D.C. The Copyright Office’s Office of Policy & International Affairs (PIA) led the planning efforts for this symposium, which is an integral component of the Office’s capacity-building initiatives and outreach efforts.
As a summer law clerk in PIA, I had the fortunate opportunity to experience ICI both as a part of the production team and as a member of the audience. It was exciting to be a part of such an event and to meet so many copyright officials from around the world.
The theme of this year’s symposium was “Copyright and Cross-Border Issues for Developing Countries and Countries with Economies in Transition.” Invitations were extended to developing countries that are currently reviewing their copyright laws, and seventeen government officials from foreign copyright offices and intellectual property-related government entities attended. Representatives from Angola, Bahamas, Barbados, Bhutan, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Jordan, Kiribati, Lebanon, Micronesia, Philippines, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, and Trinidad and Tobago actively participated in the week’s sessions.
In this government-to-government training event, we met and gained insights from approximately fifty guest speakers, which included distinguished experts from across the U.S. federal government, the private sector, and various advocacy and industry associations. Given the recent entry into force of the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, several sessions covered the technological systems that support the visually impaired as well as the obligations of that treaty, the goal of which is to address the book famine affecting visually impaired communities worldwide. U.S. government officials from various agencies also provided their views and experiences during sessions on intergovernmental coordination on criminal enforcement across borders, executive branch initiatives, and the role of the legislative branch.
In addition, we enjoyed a speech by the Rep. Jerrold Nadler of the 10th District of New York, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives. During lunch held in the historic Jefferson Building, the participants were delighted to have had the extraordinary opportunity to hear from Rep. Nadler about the premium he places on a robust copyright system and his work in supporting artists and the arts.
Throughout the week, I witnessed the high level of enthusiasm of the country participants—they contributed different viewpoints to engaging, thought-provoking discussions on current copyright issues and the ways forward to overcome those challenges. This was a rewarding experience for the participants, who were eager to bring the knowledge they gained from the ICI back to their respective offices to improve their national copyright systems. Notably, the professional relationships the country participants built with each other were particularly meaningful for the continued exchange of ideas. As expressed by one participant to another, “we are now family.”
As a former WIPO staff member who has worked on capacity-building and technical assistance projects, I found the ICI’s program content to be extremely effective. The presentations were tailored to the needs and interests of the participants and their countries. Personally, I found the panels on the Marrakesh Treaty particularly interesting because I have been following the treaty’s progress since my prior work representing UNESCO at the WIPO negotiations on this treaty. Moreover, I learned more about the importance of interagency collaboration on copyright matters within the U.S. government—far more federal agencies are actively involved in cross-border copyright issues than I had previously known. While assisting with logistics and putting together teaching materials, I was amazed by the positive team spirit of every PIA colleague. Overall, the invaluable insights I gained from the people at this ICI have reinforced my interests in continuing my career in international copyright law and policy.
The International Copyright Institute training program is a biennial event produced by the Copyright Office and WIPO, and the next symposium will take place in 2020.