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Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty by EU Celebrated as Important Step Towards Accessibility

October 13, 2018

By Barbara Martín Muñoz, EBU Second Vice President and Leader of the Marrakesh Treaty Campaign for EBU

The EU ratified the Marrakesh Treaty on 1st October and it will become a legally binding instrument for its 28 member states on 1st January 2019.

It is the first intellectual property treaty benefiting the public interest rather than the interests of rights holders. Its sets copyrights exemptions in the copyright regimes of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) state parties for accessible-format books – such as braille, large print and audio – and enables authorized entities to share their accessible book collections across national borders with other entities.

With its ratification, the EU has completed its signature of the Treaty on 30 April 2014 and the adoption in 2017 of the two pieces of legislation amending EU copyright law: a Directive (2017/1564) to be applied among EU countries and a Regulation (2017/1563) to regulate the application of the Treaty between EU countries and non-EU countries.

I had the honour of being present at the ratification ceremony in Geneva and I was overwhelmed to think of the long road since the Marrakesh Treaty was still only a dream, five years ago. It took a lot of effort to convince the WIPO state parties to accept derogations to the international copyright regime. Even minutes before the treaty was adopted in Marrakesh on 27 June 2013, we were still holding our breath. But as soon as the dream came true, we had to roll our sleeves again to get 20 countries to ratify it, so as to make the Treaty enter into force – which happened on 30 September 2016.

There is still a lot of work to do. More countries throughout the world need to be brought to sign and ratify the Treaty, beyond the over 70 already covered. In the wider Europe, EBU and its members will continue to raise awareness about the Treaty’s importance to blind and partially sighted readers and reassure opponents that rights-holders’ interests are protected. In the countries that are bound by the Treaty, we will have to promote its use by beneficiaries and watch out that their rights are effectively respected.

But let’s not spoil our pleasure today: we celebrate an important moment in Europe in the fight against the ‘book famine’ of persons who are blind, partially sighted or otherwise print disabled. The Marrakesh Treaty will increase the number of accessible-format works available, including across border. This will facilitate access to culture, and with it, to education, which, for sure, will enable us to access better jobs, and finally to be included in the global and digital society we are living in today.

I take this opportunity to thank whole-heartedly the World Blind Union, WIPO, IFLA, EDF and many other allies for their role in the result we celebrate today.

More information on the EBU’s Marrakesh Treaty campaign

Source: European Disability Forum