Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty Legislative Imperative

Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty
Legislative Imperative

In order to be full participants in the society they live in, people who have visual impairments must be afforded alternative means of accessing books, magazines, and other printed materials. Students need access to textbooks. Employees need access to publications related to their chosen work, and all of us need access to the books and magazines that influence the cultural life of our communities. Although advances in technology in recent years have given people with vision loss many more options for accessing printed materials in accessible formats, the World Blind Union estimates that individuals with print-reading disabilities only have access to five percent of the books published worldwide each year. In parts of the world that are less developed, less than one percent of published works are accessible to people with print-reading disabilities. This situation persists in spite of provisions in copyright law in countries such as the U.S. that allow producers of accessible format books to publish and distribute such accessible format works to people with print-reading disabilities. There are several reasons for this. First, with a very few exceptions, copyright laws in countries worldwide, including our own, only allow producers of accessible format books to distribute them to eligible persons within their own country. These works cannot be exported. Also, our libraries cannot import works produced abroad without risking violation of copyright laws, both here and in the exporting country.
In an effort to remedy this situation, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) adopted the Treaty to Facilitate Access to Printed Material for People Who Are Blind or Have Other Print Reading Disabilities. This treaty is known as the Marrakesh Treaty, because it was adopted at a diplomatic conference held in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2013.
The Marrakesh Treaty has received broad support from not only blindness organizations, but publishers and copyright law experts throughout the U.S. and around the world. Signed by the United States on October 2, 2013, we are still awaiting ratification by the U.S. Senate.  The treaty provides the following benefits for Americans who are blind or have other print-reading disabilities:
·     Reproduction of works, by an authorized entity, for the purpose of converting them into accessible format copies exclusively for the use of beneficiary persons.
·     Distribution of accessible format copies exclusively to beneficiary persons.
·     Export of accessible format copies of works, in order to make them available to a beneficiary person in another country.
·     Import of accessible format copies of works produced in another country, in order to make them available domestically.
In practical terms, this means that libraries and other organizations that produce accessible format copies of works for distribution to people with print-reading disabilities will be able to share those works with each other. That will ultimately free up resources that are currently used to make multiple copies of the same work, so that more publications can be put into accessible formats. The treaty contains provisions that protect both the rights of copyright holders and those who want to gain access to their copyrighted works.
Call for Action
ACB urges U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to submit a ratification package for the Marrakesh Treaty and for the members of the U.S. Senate to move toward ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty.  This treaty will empower those with print-reading disabilities, such as the millions of Americans who are blind, through greater access to international texts, while also reducing unnecessary red tape and duplicity for American distributors of accessible books.
For further information, contact Anthony Stephens, ACB's Director of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs:astephens@acb.org, (202) 467-5081.