A new IP treaty fights “book famine” for the blind

Another Kat friend enjoying Morocco
While some of the IP workforce might be heading for summer vacations, others have found a way to keep on working while being in an exotic location. During the past two weeks, an international negotiator meeting was held in Marrakesh under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco. The conference was a success and led to the creation of a new treaty containing a limitation to copyright. 

Stevie Wonder
and Francis Gurry

 The IPKat could not ignore a new IP agreement made in consideration of an important issue in such a beautiful location. The aim of that conference was to achieve the creation of a treaty to harmonize the access to protected work for visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities. This treaty will allow authorized entities to create or obtain an accessible format of a protected work without the authorisation of the rightholder. The treaty will enter into force as soon as twenty WIPO members ratify it.

Icing on the cake: 600 negotiators from 186 Member States were joined last Friday by Stevie Wonder who gave a speech, urging member states to ratify the treaty. He also performed a song to celebrate the happy ending of the conference.

The background of this treaty is detailed in a WIPO press release:
“According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 314 million blind and  visually impaired persons in the world, 90 per cent of whom live in developing countries. A WIPO survey in 2006 found that fewer than 60 countries have limitations and exceptions clauses in their copyright laws that make special provision for visually impaired persons, for example, for Braille, large print or digitized audio versions of copyrighted texts. … According to the World Blind Union, of the million or so books published each year in the world, less than 5 per cent are made available in formats accessible to visually impaired persons.”
In a short text (22 articles) published on its website, WIPO recalled that even if some member states already have established exceptions in their copyright laws, many of them are insufficient to provide good access to protected works for people with visual impairments. For instance, France has had a specific exception to copyright contained in its IP Code since 2006 (Article L122-5, 7°). However, getting the benefit of this limitation is often seen as a difficult path. The requirements to become an authorized entity or to be considered as a beneficiary are indeed more restrictive than the treaty provisions (articles 2 and 3).

Further, WIPO states that the absence of international agreement on this particular issue has led to duplication of efforts to making works accessible to these persons. Thus the treaty calls for cooperation between all WIPO members to provide better protection and to ensure that this system "will not expose their published works to misuse or distribution to anyone other than the intended beneficiaries".

Going on through the articles, it appears that the contracting parties will have an important degree of liberty when implementing this treaty into their own national law. Thus the main goal is to enhance the importation of accessible document between member states.

During his closing speech, Katfriend and Director General Francis Gurry said the treaty “will have a positive and concrete impact on the problem that brought us all here to Marrakesh”, and will “provides a framework for addressing that problem which is simple, workable and effective”.
A new IP treaty fights “book famine” for the blind A new IP treaty fights “book famine” for the blind Reviewed by Bertrand Sautier on Wednesday, July 03, 2013 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. More and more in the developed world its being recognised that there are quite subtle conditions which affect reading ability and how easy it is for people to remember what they have read. These will have much less impact than dyslexia, but can still affect performance in school. The solution is to present the text in a more graphical/spatial way and I suspect this will become more available in electronic presentations of text as the issue becomes better publicised. So this could also become an issue in the developed world (which obviously has very low rates of actual blindness).


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