Last Tuesday, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director General Francis Gurry gave a lecture to a packed auditorium of Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) students discussing competition, access to knowledge and the role of libraries in the future.
WIPO Director General Francis Gurry during a visit to Mykolas Romeris University Photo Vidūnas Gelumbauskas

Students packed the lecture sitting rapt with attention during the presentation.

Director General Gurry peppered his talk with examples. He said one of the big changes occurring recently was when Apple's Steve Jobs forced content online along with iTunes.

Now, he says music is undergoing a phase "where access has replaced ownership" and you pay a fee "to have access to a whole repertoire of music, but don't own it," he said. There are some 37 million songs now available online.

"All that is in revolution," he said and "we are seeing it unfold before our eyes," he added.

During the Q&A session, a student thanked Director General Gurry for his lecture and proceeded to ask him about copyright law.

Dr. Gurry himself posed some questions that as of yet, remain unanswered.

"Can the British Library lend to someone in the US, or even in Lithuania?" he asked.

In the digital world, it means that if we create trans-border flows, we are changing the nature of the Library. Then, we have to ask the question, what is a Library?" Gurry said.

During his visit to MRU, WIPO Director General Gurry met with MRU Rector Prof. Alvydas Pumputis and Vice-Rector for Research and International Relations Prof. Inga Žalėnienė. In addition, he met with members of MRU's academic community.

Dr. Gurry, having begun his career at WIPO in 1985, was appointed the 4th Director General of WIPO on 1 October 2008, and Secretary-General of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) on 30 October 2008.

He was instrumental in establishing the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center in 1994, served on the WIPO senior management team from 1997, initially as Assistant Director General, then from 2003 as Deputy Director General.

Before joining WIPO, Francis Gurry practiced as an attorney in Australia, and taught law at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Gurry holds law degrees from the University of Melbourne and a Ph.D from the University of Cambridge. He is an Honorary Professorial Fellow of the University of Melbourne, an Honorary Professor of a number of Universities worldwide and a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

He is the author of numerous chapters in books, articles, papers on intellectual property issues in international journals and newspapers

The WIPO, established in 1967, is a global organization uniting some 188 member states and serving as a forum for intellectual property services, information and cooperation. It is a self-funded agency of the United Nations (UN).

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