Negotiators have adopted the “Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled”. The Treaty addresses making copyright protected literary works available to the visually impaired. It will enter into force after it has been ratified by 20 WIPO members that agree to be bound by its provisions.
The text of the treaty has been published by WIPO and is being signed by national delegates today. The treaty provides of exceptions to copyright to permit access of material to the blind recognizing that there is “a continuing shortage of available works in accessible format copies”:
Article 4. 1(a) Contracting Parties shall provide in their national copyright laws for a limitation or exception to the right of reproduction, the right of distribution, and the right of making available to the public as provided by the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), to facilitate the availability of works in accessible format copies for beneficiary persons.
Accessible formats are defined as:
Article 2. (a) “accessible format copy” means a copy of a work in an alternative manner or form which gives a beneficiary person access to the work, including to permit the person to have access as feasibly and comfortably as a person without visual impairment or other print disability. The accessible format copy is used exclusively by beneficiary persons and it must respect the integrity of the original work, taking due consideration of the changes needed to make the work accessible in the alternative format and of the accessibility needs of the beneficiary persons;
The treaty is limited to “text, notation and/or related illustrations” and does not cover audio/visual works. There was a concern by some rights holder that if the exceptions were made too broad they would be used improperly. The Guardian quotes the director of the MPA’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa:
He insisted that his organisation is simply interested in ensuring the treaty contains appropriate “checks and balances”. If the copyright exceptions are too loose, he said, they “could be used by someone who’s interested in something other than serving the interests of a visually impaired person … Maybe a commercial entity wants to try to make money off of an exception.”
The World Blind Union issued a statement regarding the treaty and said:
What does this [treaty] mean for the visually impaired and other print disable people? Currently only 5% of all published books in the developed countries and less than 1% in the developing countries are ever produced in the accessible formats – such us, braille, large print and audio – that VI and print disabled need. At the centre of this treaty is an article giving permission for VI organisations and libraries to share their collections of accessible titles with other same-language communities around the world.