Annual Report 2022/Fail fest: China vs. Wikimedia – a stand-off at Wipo
In this fail fest, we focus on how Wikimedia Sverige was caught in the crossfire of global politics when China decided to deny us, and a few other Wikimedia organizations, observer status at WIPO's copyright committee.
WIPO is one of the most important forums where international copyright is discussed. Global copyright agreements, such as the Marrakesh VIP Treaty, have been negotiated there. WIPO, and especially the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), is the place to be if you want to lead the global copyright conversation in any direction.
That's why Wikimedia Sverige, together with a number of other Wikimedia organizations, decided to apply for observer status to SCCR. Behind this decision was the fact that the platforms developed by the Wikimedia movements are one of the largest digital conveyors of knowledge, which requires copyright considerations. The outcome of the global copyright discussions affects the our movement's capability to fulfill its goal.
During SCCR's 42nd session in May 2022, China made their position against Wikimedia Sverige's application clear. As consensus is required when processing the applications, ours was never voted on. China's request to defer our application to an undefined future instead of discussing it at the meeting meant that Wikimedia Sverige was blocked from joining the committee.
Because of the block, it was impossible for Wikimedia Sverige to make its voice heard during the meeting. As two days of the meeting were devoted to limitations and exceptions to copyright – an issue of central importance for the Wikimedia platforms – it meant that our organization had no opportunity to influence the discussion on important questions. In the long term, this poses a major threat to the possibilities of the civil society to participate in global discussions.
The blocking of Wikimedia Sweden garnered widespread attention from Swedish media, leading to interviews, for example in the news show SVT Nyheter and the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. So in a way, the negative outcome could still lead to positive consequences, such as raising awareness of the issue and being invited by national, influential media outlets to talk about limitations and exceptions to copyright from Wikimedia Sverige's perspective.