Treaty Agrees To Facilitate The Exchange Of Accessible Formats Between Countries

Posted: 24/07/2013 |

We’re delighted to hear the good news about the outcome of last month’s Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. On 27 June 2013, more than 600 negotiators from 186 world intellectual property organisation states reached an agreement to facilitate books in accessible formats, such as braillelarge print and audio, to be exchanged between countries.

The treaty addressed the complexities concerning copyright law affecting more than 314 million people globally who are blind or visually impaired. Prior to the agreement, national governments defined the limitations and exceptions permitted with regards to copyright law. Because copyright law is territorial, these exemptions usually did not cover the import or export of works converted into accessible formats. As a result, organisations in each country had to negotiate licenses with the right holders to exchange special formats across borders, or produce their own materials; a costly undertaking that severely limits access by visually impaired persons to printed works of all kinds. Consequently, less than 5% of the million or so books published each year are made available in formats accessible to blind and visually impaired people.

The treaty is also designed to provide assurances to authors and publishers that that system will not expose their published works to misuse or distribution to anyone other than the intended beneficiaries. The treaty reiterates the requirement that the cross-border sharing of works created based on limitations and exceptions must be limited to certain special cases which do not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonable prejudice the legitimate interests of the right holder.

World Intellectual Property Organisation Director General Francis Gurry commented:

“This treaty is a victory for the blind, visually impaired and print disabled, but also for the multilateral system. With this treaty, the international community has demonstrated the capacity to tackle specific problems, and to agree a consensus solution. This is a balanced treaty, and represents a very good arbitration of the diverse interests of the various stakeholders”.