Monday, May 19, 2014

Title 17, Section 121: Limitations on exclusive rights: Reproduction for blind or other people with disabilities

Logo for Global Accessibility Awareness Day
Last Thursday was Global Accessibility Awareness Day and I spent part of the day attending a webinar about making ebooks accessible.  The way we're making ebooks accessible is by digitizing them (or using digital files from teh publisher) and then creating different file formats with different attributes/features for those with print disabilities.  In the United States, the organizations that are doing this are using Section 121 in the U.S. Copyright Law.  This section of the U.S. Copyright Law begins:
(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement of copyright for an authorized entity to reproduce or to distribute copies or phonorecords of a previously published, nondramatic literary work if such copies or phonorecords are reproduced or distributed in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.
Notice that this work must be done by an "authorized entity" and that "specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities."  Bookshare is one such entity and it provides information on its web site about the legal framework in which it operates.  The company also discusses its Digital Rights Management Plan and how it ensures that its books are not "out in the wild", but are instead serving people with print disabilities. 

Sitting in the webinar, I was proud to see digitization serving an important function and copyright law recognizing this area as being worthy of an exemption.  When people say that the copyright law is outdated, I'm happy to have examples like this that demonstrate how it is serving real needs in our communities.

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