Today, May 8, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) administered Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled enters into force in the United States. The United States Senate ratified the Marrakesh Treaty last summer and the United States House of Representatives passed the implementing legislation in September 2018. Following the United States’ deposit of its instrument of ratification with WIPO on February 8 and the subsequent three month period prescribed in the treaty, the treaty is now in force in the United States.
The Marrakesh Treaty is designed to address the “book famine” problem in which it has been estimated that only between 1 and 7% of all published works are ever created in an accessible format for those that are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. The Marrakesh Treaty sets forth minimum standards for limitations and exceptions to facilitate access to accessible format works. It 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. The cross-border provision also facilitates importation of works created in other languages.
As an organization dedicated to achieving enduring and barrier-free access to information, ARL celebrates this milestone in the United States. Libraries, as authorized entities, play a critical role not only in serving their own patrons, but also in facilitating cross-border exchange of accessible format works. The United States is one of 55 contracting parties and countries from every region of the world are members of the Marrakesh Treaty. Canada previously joined the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016 and, significantly, was the 20th ratifying or acceding country which triggered the entry into force of the Treaty itself. A number of other ratifications are also currently underway.