Mongolia Ratifies Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind; 11 More Needed for Entry Into Force

Mongolia’s Parliament has ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.  The Marrakesh Treaty now has a total of nine ratifications or accessions* and eleven more are needed for it to enter into force.  Countries that have previously ratified or acceded to the Marrakesh Treaty include: Argentina, El Salvador, India, Mali, Paraguay, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

The Marrakesh Treaty sets forth minimum standards for limitations and exceptions to facilitate access to accessible format works.  It would also permit cross-border sharing of these accessible formats, allowing countries to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts and resources in the creation of these accessible works.  Additionally, the Treaty would facilitate importation of works created in other languages.

The United States, which signed the treaty on October 2, 2013, should ratify the treaty to help end the “book famine” where only a small fraction of books, estimated by the National Federation of the Blind at no more than five percent, are created in accessible format.  While the United States has robust limitations and exceptions to allow for the creation and distribution of accessible format works, many countries, particularly those in the developing world, do not and their collections of accessible formats are even smaller than in the United States.  Additionally, persons with print disabilities in the United States would benefit from ratification, not only from the ability to import works from other English-speaking countries, but also because persons who speak other languages or are learning new languages — for example, Spanish, French, Russian or Chinese — would be able to import works in these languages from other countries.  The Administration has reportedly been working on its ratification package, but the package has not yet been sent to Congress.

Canada recently introduced a bill to amend its copyright law in preparation for accession to the Marrakesh Treaty.  The amendments would remove the restriction against creation of a large print book, allow broader export and make changes to the exception permitting circumvention of technological protection measures.  Passing this bill would be the first step toward accession for Canada.

A recent IP-Watch story quoting Michelle Woods from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) indicated that the twenty total ratifications needed for entry into force could potentially take place later this year, meaning that the Marrakesh Treaty would enter into force in early 2016 (the treaty will enter into force three months after the twentieth ratification).  With eighty signatories to the Marrakesh Treaty, as well as numerous countries that have indicated that efforts are underway to accede to the treaty, hopefully more countries swiftly ratify so that the treaty can enter into force and alleviate the book famine.

*Countries that signed the Marrakesh Treaty during the one-year period in which it was open for signature must ratify the treaty.  Ratification is a two-step process where a country will sign the treaty, signaling that it agrees with the treaty and intends to ratify.  While a signature does not create a binding legal obligation and does not commit a country to ratification, it obliges the country to not commit acts that would undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.  Countries that did not sign the Marrakesh Treaty can become a party to the treaty through accession, a one-step ratification.  
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