Monthly Archives: January 2023

Libraries: The Forgotten Science-Policy Interface?

A regular refrain in discussions about progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is that we still face major gaps in the evidence to support decision-making.

Either the data and analysis aren’t there, or they are, but they’re not getting into the right hands.

A first result is that many of the indicators of progress towards the SDGs are effectively empty, either for all or for many countries – i.e. we don’t know where we stand now..

A second is that when leaders are making choices about how to invest resources, and how to intervene in economies and societies, they are not doing it on a sound basis – i.e. we don’t know how to move forwards successfully.

The 2030 Agenda is of course not the first time that this has come up as an issue. In past discussions, one approach has been to develop a ‘science-policy interface’ or SPI.

Given that libraries too – especially government and parliamentary libraries – themselves are closely involved in the work of supporting evidence-based policy-making, this blog explores existing SPIs, and sets out why libraries themselves should work with this term in their own advocacy.

Why SPIs?

At a conceptual level, the Science-Policy Interface refers to engagement between the research and policy communities. Through a stronger interface, it is argued, science should become more of an enabler in policy design, implementation, monitoring, follow-up and review, and give the opportunity to take a more strategic overview of linkages, barriers and opportunities to progress.

Building such an interface requires an effort from both communities. Researchers themselves need to take a stronger cue from the wider world in determining the questions they should look to answer, be they around climate change, equality or any other issues. Politicians should be readier to draw on expertise rather than to pursue popularism or ideology.

With these changes, we can hope both to accelerate the generation of new insights into our climate and society, and to overcome hesitations to take necessary actions.

Existing models have looked to do just this, primarily in the environmental field when it comes to the United Nations – see this great overview from IISD. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is perhaps the best-known example, but similar efforts played a role in the banning of CFCs, and also now in work around desertification.

In these practical cases, the ‘interface’ has been in the form of a committee of experts who meet and work together in order to identify challenges and work towards consensus on solutions. These groups can be relatively open, although then do need to address key questions around how they define roles and processes, and maintain credibility and sufficient coherence. Given that they are often dealing with evolving research, there is also plenty of room for disagreement.

Recent guidance from the United Nations Environment Programme has therefore, for example, stressed the need to ensure representativeness (including through forming links with partners globally), clear rules around mandates, and good governance.

Another example is the Global Sustainable Development Report (GDSR), which comes out every four years, and looks to provide a cross-disciplinary overview of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is perhaps less of a process than the SPIs mentioned above, but fulfils the same function of bringing insights from research to the heart of policy-making.

Libraries supporting SPIs

There are three potential ways in which libraries contribute to the goals of Science-Policy Interfaces.

The first is simply by ensuring that SPIs are able to benefit from access to the fullest possible evidence base. While the role of libraries is all too often overlooked, both the individual scientists involved in SPIs, and processes as a whole, can benefit from support in getting hold of research, organising information, and sharing it.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to the sort of inter-disciplinary work that SPIs – and the GDSR in particular – promote. Libraries are a key part of the infrastructure for gathering and making such evidence available, as for example highlighted in the Cochrane Call which IFLA signed last year.

While they may not always have the name ‘library’, knowledge hubs, data repositories and other initiatives can ensure that SPIs can focus on the discussions that need to take place. Such tools are indeed a key goal as set out in a 2019 UN Environment Assembly resolution.

Meanwhile, through their understanding of the research space, libraries can also help identify where there are potential gaps or weaknesses.

The second way is through wider advocacy for open access and open science. This can support both interdisciplinarity, and use of scientific outputs in government.

This is because when research outputs are hidden behind paywalls, there is a greater risk that faculties and the libraries that serve them will only focus on resources within the disciplines on which they focus, rather than materials form elsewhere. Paywalls can also mean that government departments with few resources prefer to rely on grey literature, unready to pay publishers for access to their databases.

As a result, by promoting open access and science – both through advocating and by providing key infrastructures such as repositories, libraries can help deliver on a key enabler of SPIs.

The third way is by themselves being a permanent Science-Policy Interface within government and wider law-making. Many government and parliamentary libraries have a role as a gateway, helping to ensure that key emerging insights and information are presented to policymakers in a way that works for them.

In this, the skills and values of libraries can play an important role, helping to assess the quality of different sources, but also then to present information in as neutral a way as possible, in order to enable the best possible decision-making.


The need to base decisions on evidence is increasingly pressing as the time left to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda becomes less and less. The emphasis on Science-Policy Interfaces is therefore likely to grow in importance at the UN level.

This should be an opportunity for libraries to demonstrate just one further way in which we can support the delivery of the 2030 Agenda, and to secure the role and resources we need to fulfil our potential.

Education for Peace and Development: Highlighting key moments and resources from 2022

The UN International Day of Education (24 January) celebrates the importance of education for peace and development. Libraries have a critical role in ensuring all members of society, of all ages, have access to quality education. To mark this day, this article revisits key moments, shares resources, and summarises IFLA’s activities in the field of education over the past year.

To fuel your advocacy, we invite you to take a look back and consider how your library is helping transform education and bring opportunities to learners of all ages.

Transforming Education

Following the publication of its report, Reimagining our Futures Together: A new social contract for education (2021), UNESCO has been leading a worldwide initiative to transform education to address the challenges of our time. Re-visit IFLA’s brief on this report here: Libraries Contributing to a New Social Contract for Education.

At the centre of this initiative was the Transforming Education Summit, which was held at the UN Headquarters in New York City in September 2022. Ahead of the Summit, UNESCO hosted the Transforming Education Pre-Summit at its headquarters in Paris.

During the Transforming Education Summit, IFLA participated in a side event to discuss the role of access to information and open education resources in making education available to all learners.

In this context, IFLA highlighted the IFLA-UNESCO Public Library Manifesto and School Library Manifesto on the floor of the United Nations.

The Vision Statement released during the Summit by the UN Secretary-General offers a roadmap for education in the 21st century. It is grounded in the principle that the right to quality education should be ensured throughout life, while also including explicit mention of the importance of non-formal education.

This statement will inform further negotiations at the upcoming Summit of the Future, which will be held in 2024.


Lifelong Learning

The 7th meeting of the International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA) took place in June 2022 in Marrakesh. It brought together ministers, mayors, officials and experts in the field of lifelong learning from around the world. IFLA organised a Side Event on delivering the SDGs through adult learning in libraries.

Key outcomes from this conference include the Marrakesh Framework for Action, which outlines  a roadmap of priorities and actions to be taken before the next conference (2033/2034).

In addition to this, UNESCO published two key reports at the time of the Conference – the 5th Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE 5), and a Handbook on Lifelong Learning Policies.

All three of these key documents include affirmation of the place of libraries within adult and lifelong learning strategies. These can be helpful references for libraries and library associations in calling for stronger recognition at the national level.


Linking Culture and Education

UNESCO asserts that culture and education make up the backbone of sustainable development. They call for a cultural sector supported by quality education, which in turn is grounded in respect for cultural diversity and human rights.

IFLA affirms that libraries sit at the intersection of education and culture. This was IFLA’s key message during the World Conference on Cultural Policy for Sustainable Development (Mondiacult 2022), hosted in Mexico City in September 2022.

Ahead of the conference, IFLA’s ResiliArt x Mondiacult event, Library Voices Joining the Global Conversation on Cultural Rights, explored this topic in depth. A panel of experts discussed how libraries enable inclusive and meaningful access to culture and create synergies between culture and education.

During Mondiacult 2022, IFLA was delighted to organise the side event, “Accelerating Education-Culture Linkages through Collaboration: Exploring partnerships with libraries and other cultural institutions”.

The resulting Mondiacult Declaration acknowledges the essential role of libraries in underlining the importance of enhancing synergies between culture and education – strengthening appreciation for cultural diversity, multilingualism, arts education and digital literacy for learners of all ages.

Looking ahead at 2023, IFLA will be involved in UNESCO’s continuing initiative to link culture and education through the renewal of the framework for culture and arts education. Learn more here: UNESCO Culture and Education.


Climate Empowerment

Another key topic in the discussion on education for sustainable development is climate education.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Action and the Paris Agreement include education as an aspect of Action for Climate Empowerment, alongside climate training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation.

IFLA participated in the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in November 2022. We took part in discussions on the role of libraries in empowering climate action through education and access to information.

There is a lot of scope to highlight the role of libraries in supporting climate action through education – both among children and youth as well as learners of all ages.



Where do you see your library, or libraries in your country or region, having an impact in transforming education and linking it to other sustainable development goals? How can you make your impact known among decisionmakers?

Share your thoughts and ideas!

Questions and comments: [email protected]

Copyright Week: Copyright Enforcement Tools as Censorship

The internet helps enable people worldwide to be creative, develop ideas in conversation, explore new uses of existing content, and make their own. It has opened up pathways for fun uses of copyrighted material generally allowed under law, such as memes and Instagram art, as well as more serious ones, such as news reporting by ordinary people on the scene of elections, natural disasters, and other events as they unfold. Free speech and the copyright limitations of fair use and fair dealing play a large part in allowing the proliferation of creativity on the world wide web. But attempts to curb creative output through take-down notices and proposals for even broader “stay down” notices can rapidly silence these robust pathways of communication.

Copyright enforcement tools can even be used as ‘crime and punishment’. In 2017, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa relied on the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to silence political discourse and criticism. Freedom of speech and expression – including the rights of citizens to criticize, satirize, or insult their government – can be curtailed under the guise of copyright enforcement. Such actions taken by Correa are not just exclusive to Ecuador; they are also tactics taken by governments and corporations to silence critical voices. 

Current implementations of copyright enforcement often favor large entities over individuals. Under the laws of the United States, the DMCA limits liability for internet service providers (ISPs) who take steps to curb copyright infringement on their services. As such, ISPs take steps to issue take-down notices to allegedly infringing activities on their servers. But these take-down notices often go too far. In one example that set American legal precedent, Youtube removed a video posted by Stephanie Lenz in 2007 of her son dancing to Prince’s 1984 hit, “Let’s Go Crazy” (Prince also had a dispute with the Warner Bros. record company in the early nineties regarding the ownership of his name and music). Despite the video being less than 30 seconds and adhering to fair use, the video was nevertheless censored. Lenz responded asserting fair use, which resulted in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case of Lenz v. Universal upholding her right to post the video, stating that copyright holders must assess if the use of their copyrighted material constitutes fair use before citing infringement. The ruling has still achieved little in stemming the take-down abuse that could be happening at this very second. The repercussions extend far beyond profit motivations, as the implications that result from court cases such as this have also inadvertently given power to governmental entities to silence critical voices and opposition. 

In 2020, US Senators conducted a panel on the utility of the DMCA in the 21st century. The panel highlighted the power imbalance between the individuals seeking recourse against copyright infringement versus corporations doing the same. YouTube’s system assumes guilt on the accused and a YouTuber flagged with a strike, true or not, either capitulates by removing the video or fights against the claim. There is no global copyright law so copyright holders and fair use proponents run up against different laws by country. However, the DMCA works more for the government and corporations than individuals. The current iteration of the law allows companies to tie up individuals, defending their copyright ownership, in expensive legal battles. Specifically, YouTube’s copyright strike system can lead to the termination of a YouTuber’s account after three strikes unless the strikes are resolved. 

Although protecting corporate profit has been a primary issue in these legal battles, this strike system has been used to silence human rights campaigns. For example, the Chinese government struck down three videos from a YouTube channel featuring video testimonies from families imprisoned in internment camps, Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights, resulting in the temporary termination of the channel. The channel eventually was allowed back on YouTube, but lost all the videos it had previously uploaded.

Governments continue to utilize the DMCA to silence their opponents and stifle free speech. In 2020, YouTube shut down independent news sites in Nicaragua after receiving copyright complaints from media companies owned by the current President, Daniel Ortega. Weaponizing the DMCA to shut down opposition voices and news from independent media sources is another example of copyright enforcement tools used as censorship.

The EU updated its copyright rules in 2019, creating a big stir with a particular article, Article 13, in its directive. Critics argued that the article’s protection against copyright infringement meant implementing copyright filters – requiring online platforms to create a system that would immediately and unilaterally block content flagged as similar to copyrighted materials by an automated bot. The EU copyright framework also leaves gaps for misuse: EU countries retain the right to choose what copyright exceptions to apply to national law. As a result, the framework opens the door for governments or corporations to use copyright filters and their country’s laws to control the expression of their populace. Automated filters like these are also notoriously bad at distinguishing between legitimate uses of copyrighted content and those disallowed by law. The issues caused by automated copyrighted strikes has led some YouTubers to take matters into their own hands by creating a database of copyright-free music. 

The current implementation of copyright enforcement tools does not protect the rights of the people; rather, it focuses on copyright owners, especially companies. Copyright enforcement should protect and support people intending to use copyrighted works fairly. By taking such considerations, copyright enforcement tools can benefit everybody by allowing anyone to fairly use the work of others while protecting copyright owners from legitimate infringements. However, we must remain vigilant of governments and corporate interests wielding copyright infringement laws to censor open expression and thought.


By (in no particular order):


Zhaneille Green, Graduate Assistant at the Scholarly Commons

Ryan Yoakum, Graduate Assistant at the Scholarly Commons

Sara Benson, Copyright Librarian

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 



Copyright Week: Fair Use protection in recent US Supreme Court cases

This week is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)’s Copyright Week. Watch IFLA’s Policy and Advocacy blog for posts on the rights libraries and their users have under copyright right law. Recently we shared a post on Monday’s theme, the Public Domain. Today: Fair Use.

Fair use triumphs over proprietarianism. Consumers benefit from competition and advances in technology – as affirmed and supported by two recent Supreme Court cases from 2021.

In a 6-2 decision the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a significant confirmation that fair use is a friend of innovation, interoperability and good old-fashioned American creativity and ingenuity. While the decision in Oracle America, Inc. v. Google LLC, 141 S.Ct. 1183 (2021), disappointed some commentators and practitioners as it assumed “for argument’s sake” that Oracle’s Java SE Program was copyrightable; leaving no further guidance on the boundaries copyright protection for works of function such as a computer program, it was a victory for the continued application of fair use in the technology sector.

The decision follows other fair use and computer program decisions from the appellate courts such as Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. v. Connectix Corp., 203 F.3d 596 (9th Cir. 2000), cert. denied 531 U.S. 871, that held reverse engineering requiring reproduction of the protected as well as unprotected elements of Sony’s gaming platform (PlayStation) a fair use. Connectix wanted to develop a platform that would allow users to play Sony games on a Macintosh. As the Ninth Circuit stated “because the Virtual Game Station is transformative and does not merely supplant the PlayStation console… Sony understandably seeks control over the market for devices that play games Sony produces or licenses. The copyright law, however, does not confer such a monopoly.” Id. at 607.  The Sony decision followed the logic of a previous case involving another gaming giant, Sega Enterprise Ltd. and its Genesis console, Sega Enterprises Ltd. v. Accolade, Inc., 977 F.2d 1510 (9th Cir.1992).  There the disassembly of the program that included reproducing protected as well as unprotected elements so that Accolade, Inc. could write its own code and create games that would be playable on Sony’s console was also deemed a fair use.

In the Oracle case the stakes were higher than the video game market, rather the development of an alternative cell phone platform.   Like Accolade, Google wrote millions lines of new code, while it reproduced and incorporated 11,500 lines of code from the Sun Java SE Program.  The Java code consisted of 2.86 lines of which 11,500 represented about 0.4%.  Oracle claimed infringement. Google claimed fair use. The Court reiterated the purpose of U.S. copyright is to help society unleash its creative potential.  That purpose is balanced against the exclusive rights the copyright law offers. The court acknowledged that “the exclusive rights it awards can sometimes stand in the way of others exercising their own creative powers.” Oracle America, Inc. v. Google LLC, 141 S.Ct. 1183, 1195 (2021).  This review required “judicial balancing” and considered “significant changes in technology.” The use of the Java code was an efficient way to innovate a new product and this “use was consistent with that creative ‘progress’ that is the basic constitutional objective of copyright itself.” Id.  Programmers would not need to learn an entirely new programming language as “programmers had already learned to work with the Sun Java API’s system, and it would have been difficult, perhaps prohibitively so, to attract programmers to build its Android smartphone system without them.” Id. at 1205.  The Court found this purpose to be an “inherently transformative role that the reimplementation played in the new Android system.” Id. at 1204. Further, Google took “only what was needed.” Id. at 1209.  The court also discussed how Sun’s mobile market was declining. This inability to compete in Android’s market “and the risk of creativity-related harms to the public … convince that this fourth factor… also weighs in favor of fair use.” Id. at 1208. Overall elements of all four fair use factors (purpose and character of use, nature of the work used, the amount taken and the market) favored fair use.

These cases represent support and encouragement of interoperative products and services, marketplace innovation and a recognition that the purpose of copyright is not only to reward copyright holders but to benefit society through new tools and technologies. Computer programs – while not unprotected by copyright – are works of function, a category in which fair use is more generously applied. Libraries produce works of function all the time, such as indexes, outline, bibliographies, lexicons, thesauri, finding aids, abstracts and reviews. Altogether, these open new avenues to work with and preserve content that people and institutions – including libraries – can further explore.


Written by:

Professor Tomas A. Lipinski, J.D., LL.M., M.L.I.S., Ph.D.
School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
[email protected]

Happy Public Domain Day 2023!

January 2 was Public Domain Day in 2023, celebrating the works that now belong to the ages (and you!). Public domain works may be copied from, remixed, incorporated into other works and generally utilized for free, without payment to rightsholders. They are viewed as part of the commons from which the world draws to make new art and knowledge. This often takes effect between 50 and 80 years after the death of the author (70 years in most countries). To find out whose work enters the public domain in 2023 in your country, Wikipedia has a useful chart.

Our blog post from last year details some implications for libraries – including greater opportunities for digitising material in collections and building our shared ‘knowledge commons’, as well as charts detailing the benefits of public domain to the social good, by making works accessible after their (often relatively short) commercial life wanes.

While the fate of most works is obscurity as they fall out of print, the public domain offers a chance for revitalised distribution. Nonetheless, many works remain influential. Many blogs have detailed all the works you’re now able to use, and we recommend looking at them. For some highlights (leaning heavily on film, where my greatest interest falls):

  • Wings (1927), the first movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, which features aerial battle action and this impressive tracking shot in a café that occasionally makes the rounds on social media. Still on my to-watch list, and this will be a good excuse!
  • The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, the last remaining collection of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories (written 1923-7) that was not already in the public domain. Speaking to the ridiculousness of holding onto copyright ownership for a character so diffused in the public imagination, in 2020 Doyle’s estate sued Netflix over a film adaptation on the logic that the character had not displayed empathy in earlier stories and therefore any story in which Holmes was not emotionally detached was still under copyright as an adaptation of the later stories. The suit was dismissed.
  • Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), a beautiful silent era classic from Germany, which finished at #11 this November on Sight and Sound’s once-in-a-decade poll of the best films of all time.
  • Metropolis (1927), one of the most influential science fiction films of all time and a personal favorite, a key focus point for imagery of mad scientists, cyborgs, and dystopic cities. Here’s a good two-part blog on the film from earlier this year, noting particularly that “Most science fiction builds the future on the foundation of the present — Metropolis is, if not unique, then close to it in extending that foundation into the distant past. Rotwang lives in a house ‘forgotten for centuries’ where he works with an unholy fusion of science and black magic: note the ever-present pentagrams and the alchemical device sitting in his wood stove. The climax takes place in a Gothic cathedral.”

Metropolis in particular is, in its own way, an argument for the value of the public domain, with its vision of a future built on ‘foundations in the past’, as well as its long history of indirect adaptation (while plenty of films were influenced by it, the city of Blade Runner often looks like a more detailed copy of Metropolis’ metropolisand direct (a stage musical, Giorgio Moroder’s version with an alternate 80s soundtrack) and versions of multiple length for the film itself owing to scenes lost during edits made during its early international circulation. Key, plot-relevant scenes long thought lost were rediscovered in 2008 in the Museo del Cine Pablo Ducrós Hicken in Buenos Aires.

While the lost Metropolis scenes were considered a ‘Holy Grail’ level find of the silent era, the film was able to find influence without them. It still existed! An estimated total of just 25% of (American) films of the silent era remain in any known, accessible format at all (though some artists have made interesting attempts at resurrections, including imagining what those films might contain based solely on their titles). Films of the era weren’t preserved when their commercial lives were thought over. Clearly, a system relying on studios alone, which follow a market logic, to ensure the survival of these works has failed.

The above works have stood the test of time to be recognizable and influential today. They are now available to be shared, adapted, and further distributed more freely. They officially belong to a world that had long since claimed them. However, most works in the public domain are considerably more obscure. Who knows what gems are hiding now that they are liberated for further use?

We need institutions like libraries and archives to provide a guarantee of preservation of the works that shape our world – something that over-extended copyright adds to the difficulties of.

So as you enjoy the new possibilities that Public Domain Day brings to enjoy the works of the past, remember also all the hard work by libraries that and others that have helped them survive, and reflect on what we can do to ensure that we safeguard the films and other materials of today for the future.

Happy discovery in 2023!

A version of this post also appears on IFLA News.