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Marrakech Treaty - Equal Access to Books for Visually Impaired and Print Disabled

  • Publish Date : 2013/06/28
  • Author : European Commission

Synopsis:

European Commission welcomes Marrakech Treaty ensuring equal access to books for persons who are blind visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.

Main Document

The European Commission welcomed the adoption of the Marrakech Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Print Disabled - A person who cannot effectively read print because of a visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning disability. George Kerscher coined the term "print disabled" (circa 1988-1989) to describe persons who could not access print.

The adoption follows two weeks of negotiations at a WIPO Diplomatic Conference in Marrakech in which the EU played an active role to facilitate access to protected works by visually impaired persons within the existing international copyright framework.

Commissioner Barnier stated: "Great news today: our collective effort has made it possible to adopt a new international treaty that means that finally, the visually impaired and print-disabled community will be able to have access to the same books as other people. For too long, this community has been denied the access to knowledge and culture they are entitled to in exactly the same way as everyone else".

The Marrakech Treaty will require signatory members to introduce copyright exceptions similar to those that already exist in the EU. Moreover, it provides for ways to exchange special format copies across borders. The Treaty builds on international copyright conventions and has been designed to respect the rights of authors and to encourage their creativity.

Commissioner Barnier continued: "I have made a clear commitment to fight discrimination of visually impaired and print disabled persons. Today we have taken a major step in the right direction. The Marrakech Treaty is a great success."

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the United Nations agency dedicated to the use of intellectual property (patents, copyright, trademarks, designs, etc.) as a means of stimulating innovation and creativity.

Between 17 and 28 June 2013, WIPO held a Diplomatic Conference in Marrakech to conclude a Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. The new Treaty creates a mandatory exception to copyright that allows organizations for blind people to produce, distribute and make available accessible format copies to visually impaired persons without the authorization of the right holder. It also allows for cross-border exchange of these copies, subject to the so-called three-step test requirement that ensures that the rights of right-holders are not unduly restricted. The Marrakech Treaty will enter into force after ratification by twenty States.

According to the World Blind Union, there are an estimated 285 million blind and partially sighted people living worldwide; most of them in developing countries and only 5% of published books are available in special formats today. The objective of the EU, along with the World Blind Union, is to increase this figure to 100%.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Marrakesh Treaty

It is a Treaty adopted in the context of the World Intellectual Property Organization on 27 June 2013. It aims at facilitating access to books for visually impaired and print disabled persons. It creates a mandatory exception to copyright that allows organizations for the blind to produce, distribute and make available accessible format copies to visually impaired persons without the authorization of the right-holder. It also allows for the exportation of the accessible formats, provided that certain conditions are met.

Why was the adoption of the Treaty necessary

According to the World Blind Union, there are an estimated 285 million blind and partially sighted people worldwide and they can access only 5% of the books sighted people can read. This is the so-called "book famine". The Marrakesh Treaty will make it possible to export accessible format copies to other Contracting States, hence increasing the availability of special formats all around the world.

Who are the beneficiaries of the Treaty

The Treaty does not only cover blind and other visually impaired people but it also covers persons with perceptual and reading disabilities, such as dyslexia.

Which organizations can make accessible format copies under the Treaty

The so-called "authorized entities" are entities authorized or recognized by governments to provide education, instructional training, adaptive reading or information access to beneficiary persons on a non-profit basis. Moreover, they can be government institutions or non-profit organizations that provide the same services to beneficiary persons as one of their primary activities or institutional obligations.

These entities have to comply with certain obligations, such as

  • establishing that the persons they serve are beneficiary persons;
  • limiting to beneficiary persons and/or authorized entities the distribution and making available of accessible format copies;
  • discouraging the reproduction, distribution and making available of unauthorized copies; and
  • maintaining due care in, and records of, its handling of accessible format copies.

What are the relevant provisions of the Treaty in a domestic situation

The Treaty provides for a mandatory exception to the right of reproduction, the right of distribution and the right of making available in order to facilitate access to books for visually impaired and print disabled persons. For this purpose, an authorized entity can make accessible format copies and send them to beneficiaries. Also, a visually impaired person can make an accessible format copy for his or her own use.

The Treaty also explicitly recognizes the right of Contracting States to determine whether these exceptions are subject to compensation and whether they only allow for the use of the exception where the special format copy of the relevant work is not commercially available.

What are the relevant provisions of the Treaty for the cross-border exchange

Authorized entities can export accessible format copies made under a copyright exception to other authorized entities or directly to individuals in other Contracting States. The precondition is that they comply with the so-called three-step test, i.e. the distribution and making available is limited to certain special cases which do not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the right-holder.

What are the possibilities of an importing country

As regards imported accessible format copies, the Contracting Parties enjoy the freedom to determine the applicable conditions in their domestic market.

When will the Treaty enter into force

The Treaty will enter into force once 20 Contracting States have ratified it.


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