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The Access Line
Access to Copyrighted Material by Blind Users: WIPO Rules Must Be Aligned with Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Over the past twelve months, the proposed treaty by the World Blind Union to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has made significant inroads with three countries (Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay) formally putting forth a proposal to the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyrights and Related Rights (SCCRR) to review and adopt it.
Following its May 25-29 meeting, “the Committee reaffirmed its commitment to continue without delay its work in a global and inclusive approach, including the multifaceted issues affecting access of the blind, visually impaired and other reading-disabled persons to protected works.” This is obviously good news for all parties who supported this initiative.
It appears, however, that discussions are rather complex with opposing views: those supporting the rights of persons with disabilities, countries with existing copyright laws and regulations which already include provisions for the free access by blind persons to copyrighted materials, publishers strongly lobbying against the proposed text, and legal experts asking for more time to analyze its implications.
Meanwhile, one important new dimension of this important negotiation is the rapid growth of the number of countries which have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since last year (58 as of today representing over 2/3 of the world population). Indeed, article 30 of the Convention on Cultural Life unequivocally addresses the issue of access by blind persons to copyrighted material:
“States Parties shall take all appropriate steps, in accordance with international law, to ensure that laws protecting intellectual property rights do not constitute an unreasonable or discriminatory barrier to access by persons with disabilities to cultural materials”.
All G3ict stakeholders will closely monitor the progress of the WIPO discussions. Long term, State Parties to the Convention will have to align their national legislation and regulations with the provisions of the Convention and, as a result, consider adjusting their copyright laws. WIPO’s ability to propose a worldwide treaty in accordance with article 9 and 30 of the Convention will therefore be a tremendous help for all parties involved.
Conclusions of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyrights and Related Rights by its chair person: http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/copyright/en/sccr_18/sccr_18_conclusions.pdf (Also as a PDF attachment)
Latest analysis on the session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyrights and Related Rights by ICTSD : http://ictsd.net/i/news/bridgesweekly/47862
Joint report by World Blind Union and KEI http://www.keionline.org/misc-docs/tvi/meeting_report.pdf (Also as a PDF attachment)