Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Marrakesh Treaty

brailleAccording to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO):
The Marrakesh Treaty eases the production and transfer across national boundaries of books that are specially adapted for use by people with visual impairments, most of whom live in lower-income countries.
The Marrakesh Treaty came into effect for WIPO member states on September 30, 2016, including the United States. However, the U.S. Senate has not ratified it yet. As of today, they last took action on it in early 2016.

To understand the effect the treaty will have on Title 17, we can just look at the letter sent from the U.S. Department of Commerce to Vice President Joe Biden, when the text of the treaty was given to him.  It says:
The bill implements provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty that aims to expand the availability of print materials in accessible formats such as braille, large print, and specialized digital audio files, for the use of persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.  A limited set of changes is proposed to section 121 of the Copyright Act.  The proposed bill broadens the scope of works currently covered by section 121 and elaborates of the section's definition of "blind of other persons with disabilities."  It also specifies that accessible format copies may be exported for the exclusive use of such eligible persons in other countries that are parties to the treaty, and for U.S. citizens or domiciliaries located abroad.
In talking about the treaty, Secretary of State John Kerry wrote:
The Marrakesh Treaty includes two core elements designed to promote access to published works for persons with print disabilities. First, it requires every Treaty party to provide an exception or limitation in its national copyright law to copyright holders' exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, and making available published works to the public, in order to facilitate the availability of books and other printed materials in accessible formats. Second, the Treaty requires that parties allow "authorized entities" (for example, libraries, or organizations devoted to assisting the visually impaired) to distribute such "accessible format copies" to other authorized entities and to "beneficiary persons" (individuals who meet defined criteria for visual or other reading-related impairments) in other countries that are party to the Treaty.
It has been said that millions of people world wide would be positively impacted by the Marrakesh Treaty if every country ratifies it.  Let's hope that the U.S. Senate is pushed to ratify the treaty soon and to make the requisite changes to our own law.

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