Tag Archives: treaties

Marrakesh Treaty Unanimously Supported by U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees

The United States is moving closer toward ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (Marrakesh Treaty).  The Marrakesh Treaty is a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) based treaty that was adopted in June 2013, and went into force in September 2016 when Canada triggered entry into force as the 20th country ratifying or acceding to the treaty.  The Marrakesh Treaty provides minimum standards for limitations and exceptions to create and distribute accessible format works for persons who are blind or print disabled, and also allows for cross-border exchange of accessible formats. Cross-border exchange is a critical feature of the treaty and could greatly alleviate what is known as the “book famine,” a situation in which the National Federation of the Blind estimates that no more than 5 percent of published works are created in an accessible format.

The United States Senate has been actively considering the Marrakesh Treaty, and the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S.2559) was introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators on March 28, 2018, including Foreign Relations Committee Chair Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Menendez (D-NJ), Judiciary Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Feinstein (D-CA), and Senators Hatch (R-UT), Harris (D-CA) and Leahy (D-VT).

During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on April 18, 2018, witnesses included Manisha Singh (Department of State), Allan Adler (Association of American Publishers), Scott LaBarre (National Federation for the Blind) and Jonathan Band (Library Copyright Alliance). During the hearing, Singh said that ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty was a “win for everyone,” and pointed out that it would allow people with print disabilities in the United States access to 350,000 additional works that they do not currently have access to.  She noted that while 35 other countries have ratified the treaty (now 37), none of the current parties have the breadth of the collections in the United States. Members of the Committee and the witnesses repeatedly noted that there is no known opposition to the Marrakesh Treaty.

The Senate Judiciary Committee reported the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act unanimously out of committee on May 10, 2018. Chairman Grassley’s prepared statement noted:

I’m glad we’re considering S. 2559 today, a bill to implement the Marrakesh Treaty. The United States signed the treaty in October 2013 to facilitate access to published works for blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled persons. The Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Treaty and is planning to move on the Treaty’s ratification process.

The Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act is a consensus bill that was developed by both the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees with stakeholders within the publisher, library and print disabilities communities. We did this in consultation with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Copyright Office. As such, the bill enjoys the support of all these stakeholders, as well as other interested industry, copyright and public interest stakeholders. I particularly want to commend the National Federation of the Blind, the Association of American Publishers, and the Library Copyright Alliance for working with us in reaching an agreement on legislative text and proposed legislative history. We would not be here today without their efforts.

[ . . . ]

S. 2559 would go a long way in helping to give people with print disabilities—here in the United States and all over the world—greater access to materials in formats such as braille, large print and specialized digital audio files. It is a bipartisan, consensus bill that enjoys widespread support. It is supported by the copyright community as well as by the Administration.

Today, May 22, 2018, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee followed suit and also reported the treaty out of committee unanimously.  The Marrakesh Treaty will now go to the full Senate for consideration and needs at least a 2/3 majority to pass.  ARL urges the full Senate to support the Marrakesh Treaty, which will promote access to knowledge for those who are bind, visually impaired or print disabled both in the United States and abroad.

 

Mexico Ratifies Marrakesh Treaty

On Wednesday, July 29, 2015, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) announced that Mexico ratified the Marrakesh Treaty.  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.

With Mexico’s ratification as well as recent news of Mongolia’s ratification, the Marrakesh Treaty is now halfway to the 20 necessary ratifications to enter into force.  Countries previously ratifying the treaty include Argentina, El Salvador, India, Mali, Mongolia, Paraguay,Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Bill C-65 in Canada was introduced in June in preparation for accession to the Marrakesh Treaty.  While the United States signed the Treaty in October 2013, signaling an intention to ratify, the Obama Administration has not yet sent the Treaty to the US Senate for ratification.

On the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ARL Urges Swift Ratification of Marrakesh Treaty

On Sunday, July 26, 2015, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrated its 25th anniversary.  The ADA, authored and sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and passed with strong bi-partisan support, prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability including with respect to education and employment.  The ADA covers a wide range of disabilities and ensures that the civil rights of those with disabilities are protected.  This landmark piece of legislation represented world leadership in the area of promoting the rights of those with disabilities.

ARL has long supported the ADA and efforts to improve accessibility.  Those who are visually impaired or hearing impaired, for example, may face significant obstacles in attaining access to information or culture.  Those with physical disabilities may face limitations in accessing physical spaces.  The ADA helps to promote greater accessibility and protect the rights of those with disabilities.

As the United States celebrates this landmark piece of legislation and the many successes that the ADA has produced, continued efforts are needed to promote the rights of those with disabilities. The United States has a clear and concrete way to improve the rights of the print disabled by improving access to improving access to accessible format works.

In July 2013, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) concluded a diplomatic conference resulting in the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Those Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The Marrakesh Treaty creates minimum standards for copyright limitations and exceptions for the creation and distribution of accessible formats and allows for the cross-border exchange of these formats. The cross-border exchange is a critical feature and could greatly alleviate what is known as the “book famine,” a situation in which the National Federation for the Blind estimates that no more than 5 percent of published works are created in an accessible format. The ability to import works from other English speaking countries would aid in growing the collection of accessible format works in the United States and avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts in the creation of these formats. Perhaps of even greater benefit would be the ability to import works in other languages for those in the United States who do not speak English as a first language, such as large populations of Spanish, French, Chinese, Russian, German, Italian, Korean or Vietnamese speaking individuals. It would also benefit those who are learning foreign languages. Significantly, the treaty would allow those in developing countries, which generally have an even smaller number of accessible formats available, to import works from the relatively larger collections in the United States and elsewhere.

In order for the Marrakesh Treaty to enter into force, twenty countries must ratify or accede to the treaty. Currently, nine countries – Argentina, El Salvador, India, Mali, Mongolia, Paraguay, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay – have ratified and eleven more are needed.

The United States signed the Marrakesh Treaty in October 2013, signaling support for and an intention to ratify the treaty, but the Obama Administration has not yet sent the treaty to the US Senate for ratification. The United States should show leadership and be one of the first twenty countries to ratify the treaty. While the ADA has been a great success and 25 years of ensuring the civil rights of those with disabilities is a moment for celebration, more can still be done to improve the lives of those with disabilities.

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.  

Bill to Amend Canada’s Copyright Act in Preparation for Accession to the Marrakesh Treaty Tabled in the House of Commons

On June 8, 2015, proposed amendments to Canada’s Copyright Act were tabled in the House of Commons. These amendments, contained in Bill C-65, the Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act, would amend the Copyright Act in order to prepare for implementation of and accession to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (“Marrakesh Treaty”).

This bill follows the April 21, 2015 budget proposal, which signaled an intention to amend the Copyright Act and accede to the Marrakesh Treaty. In that proposal, the Canadian government noted that accession to the Marrakesh Treaty would benefit the approximately 1 million blind or visually impaired Canadians.

Under Canada’s Copyright Act, Article 32 provides a limitation to allow for the creation and distribution of accessible format works for those with disabilities. The current provision broadly permits the creation of an accessible work for persons with a perceptual disability. It does not, however, permit the creation of a large print book. The current exception applies only where an accessible format is not commercially available. A non-profit organization may export an accessible format copy, but only where the author of the work is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident or a citizen or permanent resident of the country to which the copy is being sent. Copies may not be exported where the organization knows or has reasonable grounds to know that an accessible format is available in that country within a reasonable time and for a reasonable price. Royalties are owed by the organization making or sending the accessible format copy. The current copyright law also has an exception to the prohibition against circumvention of technological protection measures, but only where it does not “unduly impair” the technological protection measure.

Bill C-65 makes several changes to Article 32. One of the most significant changes is that it removes the prohibition on the creation of large print format as an accessible copy. Large print is an important type of accessible format because many of those who are visually impaired do not require audio formats or may not read Braille. For example, with age, individuals often require larger print. The Marrakesh Treaty broadly defines an “accessible format copy” and the removal of the prohibition against large print in Article 32, complies with the Treaty and will greatly benefit an aging population.

Another key change would allow the sending of accessible formats to other countries, regardless of the nationality of the authors of the works. Bill C-65 allows for the export of accessible format works to both Marrakesh Treaty countries as well as non-Marrakesh Treaty countries. It would allow for injunctions, but not damages, where the accessible format was exported to a country where it was commercially available within a reasonable time, for a reasonable price and located with reasonable effort. Where a work is exported to a Marrakesh Treaty country, the owner of the copyright bears the burden of demonstrating commercial availability. Where a work is exported to a non-Marrakesh Treaty country, the non-profit organization must also show that it had reasonable grounds to believe that it was not commercially available.

Additionally, Bill C-65 permits circumvention of technological protection measures, removing the condition that the technological protection measure not be unduly impaired. It instead provides that circumvention is permitted for the sole purpose of enabling those with perceptual disabilities, or non-profit organizations who serve them, to access accessible formats of the work.

Introduction of Bill C-65 is a key first step in acceding to the Marrakesh Treaty. The Marrakesh Treaty currently has 8 ratifications and will need 12 more for entry into force. In the United States, the Administration has been working on preparing its ratification package, but it has not yet been submitted to Congress.

European Commission Proposes Ratification of Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind

On October 21, 2014, the European Commission proposed ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The EU signed the treaty in April 2014.

From the press release:

Michel Barnier, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Internal Market and Services, said “The Marrakesh Treaty will simplify the lives of millions of visually impaired people around the world. The EU can help to improve access to books with equal conditions for all and contribute to the fight against the book famine. The Commission’s proposal is a signal that Europe is ready to support the rapid entry into force of this important Treaty. I count on the Council and the European Parliament to authorise the ratification as soon as possible.” (emphasis added)

Two countries — India and El Salvador — have ratified the treaty which sets forth minimum standards for limitations and exceptions designed to facilitate access to accessible format works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. It would also permit cross-border sharing of these accessible format works, allowing countries to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts in the creation of accessible format works and also facilitate the importation of works in other languages.

The treaty needs eighteen more ratifications to enter into force. The United States signed the Marrakesh Treaty in October 2013; when will it ratify the treaty?