Marrakesh Accords The Marrakesh VIP Treaty is aimed at making books, periodicals and other textual works accessible to the blind, visually impaired and other print disabled people. Formally known as the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, the treaty was signed in Marrakesh, Morocco on June 28, 2013.
The treaty required at least 20 countries to ratify it to come into effect. As of July 6, 2014, 79 nations belonging to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) have ratified this treaty. India was the first country to ratify the treaty and to hand over the Instrument of Ratification to WIPO at the 28th session of the Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, in Geneva.
Less than ten per cent of the published books in the world is available in a format, such as Braille, that makes them accessible to people with visual or reading impairment. To remove this impediment, the treaty seeks to address access barriers in copyright law. It does this in two ways. STARTUPS IN INDIA
- The treaty requires ratifying countries to make an exception to their domestic copyright act for the visually impaired and print disabled people. This implies that the countries would ensure that their laws allow such people and their organizations to convert books into the accessible format without taking permission from the holder of the copyright, like the publisher or the author.
- The treaty also seeks to allow the export and import of copyright textual works in an accessible format, again without the permission of the copyright holder. This not only allows those with large collections of accessible books to share those with visually impaired people in different countries but also prevents the duplication of transcription efforts in different countries.
Under the terms of the treaty, only “authorized entities”, such as organizations involved in helping blind people, can export accessible books, though the treaty allows such material to be imported or received either by other “authorized entities” or directly by the visually impaired or print disabled people. Article 2 (c) of the treaty defines “authorized entity” as a non-profit or government organization that makes accessible copies of textual material for people with disabilities, which the treaty calls “beneficiary persons”. It also includes for-profit organizations in the same field using government funds on a not-for-profit basis. There is no approval mechanism involved in determining “authorized entities”. Simply fulfilling the broad criteria mentioned in the terms of the treaty is enough.
Marrakesh Accords The term “beneficiary persons” is defined under Article 3 of the treaty. It is a broad definition covering all those having any disability that can interfere with reading. These include blind, visually impaired, people with reading disabilities and those who have some physical disability that can prevent them from effectively holding a book, focusing on a page or turning pages.
Article 2(b) defines broadly the term “accessible format copy” that does not limit the format and the technique used in making books and other textual material accessible. It allows all formats that would provide access to work “as feasibly and comfortably as a person without visual impairment or other print disability”.
Article 2(a) puts down the type of publications that can be transcribed and distributed under the terms of the treaty. These include “literary and artistic works … in the form of text, notation and/or related illustrations, whether published or otherwise made publicly available in any media”. This definition does not cover films. The treaty does not allow the content of the textual work to be changed. It only allows transcription into an accessible format.
Article 4 seeks to create an exception to the domestic copyright law of ratifying countries for allowing authorized entities to make accessible copies of works without seeking permission from the copyright holder.
Article 5 and 6 of the treaty allows the cross-border exchange of accessible textual works, both between authorized entities and directly to the beneficiary persons.
Article 7 makes it legal for beneficiary persons to circumvent technological protection measures employed by publishers to prevent illegal access to their digital publications. Such circumvention should only be for making work accessible to the beneficiary persons.
The Marrakesh VIP Treaty provides a crucial legal framework to make works available in an accessible format to the visually impaired and print disabled people, especially in countries that do not have national copyright exceptions for this purpose. It also seeks to establish an import/export regime for easy exchange of accessible format works across borders. As such, it would go a long way in remedying the dearth of accessible books for people with visual disabilities.