WIPO Copyright Committee Tackles Visually Impaired Access, Other Exceptions

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The World Intellectual Property Organization Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) is meeting this week in an attempt to advance proposals to improve global access to copyrighted works, following a disappointing summer meeting that ended without agreement. This week’s meeting also includes renewed discussions of proposed treaties on broadcasters’ rights and rights over audiovisual performances.

Participants asked before today’s opening plenary session declined to place high expectations of a breakthrough agreement on differences such as how to move forward on a proposed treaty increasing visually impaired readers’ access to online books, while not leaving behind other exceptions and limitations to copyright such as the needs of libraries. The SCCR is meeting from 8-12 November.

Still, there was hope that progress would be made on these proposals, as well as on broadcasting and audiovisual performances.

“We’ll see in this meeting if there is progress” on limitations and exceptions, SCCR Chair Jukka Liedes told Intellectual Property Watch. “We should have the opportunity to discuss all the proposals.”

He noted that in the committee, preparation for treaty negotiations “has always taken time.” Liedes has chaired the committee for over a decade, in which time failed attempts at diplomatic conferences (the highest-level treaty negotiations) occurred on the broadcasting (2007) and audiovisual (2000) treaties [corrected].

“We are just beginning to look at the proposals (on exceptions and limitations),” Liedes said. “We don’t know when there will be agreement.” But, he added, “I am an optimist.”

But proponents of greater access to reading material for the blind and visually impaired have expressed a sense of urgency in negotiations as the limited access is considered to be of crisis proportions.

At the last SCCR meeting in June, the most debated issue was copyright exceptions and limitations, with four proposals submitted by delegations (IPW, WIPO, 22 June 2010). Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Mexico suggested the adoption of an international treaty to facilitate access for the visually impaired persons (based on a World Blind Union proposal), the African Group proposal offered a broader perspective, the United States proposed a “draft consensus instrument,” and the European Union has suggested a draft joint recommendation.

The African Group, which has an interest in including broader exceptions and limitations, submitted a proposal in June including exceptions and limitations for education and research institutions, libraries, and archive centres (IPW, Copyright, 26 June 2010).

There is a possibility of some discussion during the week about ways to link together the exceptions, broadcasting and audiovisual issues, according to several sources, but it is unclear how this could be achieved.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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  1. says

    I read the stream-text of the day two WIPO SCCR sessions. The EU Representative referred to Article 4 of the EU proposal WIPO SCCR 20_12 regarding ‘cross border transfer of physical works in accessible formats …’

    I am assuming by ‘physical works’ he is mostly but maybe not solely referring to Braille embossed paper books. The Braille rendition of the latest Harry Potter book (according to The National Braille Press in Boston) weighed 17 pounds. The same book on Amazon.com has a shipping weight of one pound. A BRF Braille ASCII file that will allow Braille embossing on-site and in-country weighs nothing.

    So when will the WIPO SCCR start to consider the environmental and climate change implications of any proposed policy that would encourage cumbersome heavy Braille books to start flying — even if postage free — all over the world?

  2. says

    On the websites of WIPO VisionIP.org Forum (6JUL2010), on this IP-Watch.org (8JUL2010) and other NGO websites I have made a Proposal for a Braille-Only Treaty based on Copyright Law of Japan section 37 that is a total of 3 paragraphs excluding Preamble. It dispenses with virtually ALL of the definitions that have been the gist and contention of the WIPO SCCR21 discussions to date at least the parts I have been able to monitor on the StreamText.

    As I mention in those posts, a Braille BRF ASCII file is accessible to persons using DAISY players, screen readers, and other output devices though with limited navigation capability… but is of NO use to persons without such equipment whether in Grade1 Braille or especially if in Grade 2… It is not an XML file.

    The Treaty I propose would have no restrictions on cross border transfer in either direction and would not require extensive legislation or new infrastructure especially withion developing countries where access is the most limited.

    The following is the BRF ASCII text version of a sample paragraph from ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire” as opened in text file without special Braille reading software — see for yourself:

    ,,GIRL ”’ ,,FIRE ,VOL4 #E #HDF

    SEV]ELY W.D$1 B HE 0 9 A LOT ( PA94 ,&
    YES1 ! CAB9 0 [N$ 0,NILS ,BJURMAN1 A
    MAN “! 0 S M* AB 9 ! PAP]S4
    -MUN;Y4 ,DUR+ ! C\RSE (! MORN+ ! TRA6IC
    9 T A MI4LE-AG$ WOMAN _H BE5 KILL$ 0H]
    BOYFR AT ! H\SE !Y %>$ 9 ,F9N+E4 ,AT ALM
    96A PROP]TY 9 ,/ORG@ARDET4 ,”O BODY 0
    F.D 9 ! WRECKAGE4 ,& 6TOP X ALL1 TWO C>S
    ALM 6A MAN4

    Why would any copyright holder consider this a threat and again it can be accessed by the same equipment and software as would be used for DAISY without all the eBook or Mp3 implications..

    I posted the following comment in The New York Times in Nicholas Kristof's column 26 OCT 2010:

    (quote) … Under US law Copyright exemptions certain 501c3 Non Profits can only make available Braille renditions of copyrighted materials to US citizens. The leading USA-based Non Profit that provides such materials to persons who are print-disabled has said that it seeks from the US Copyright Office (USCO) "… reliable confidence that exporting and importing are legal today; not, try it and see if you get sued."

    Another Non Profit group stated in USCO written testimony: "It is arguably already the case that imports and exports are allowed under the U.S. law, although the legal uncertainly has apparently deterred people from importing or exporting works created under exceptions."

    There are similar representations that under the UK 'Visually Impaired Persons Act of 2002' such materials cannot be exported from the UK … The World Blind Union says in their WIPO Treaty Proposal that "… 90 percent of visually impaired persons live in countries of low or moderate incomes."

    It is my firm belief however that under certain provisions and conditions of existing law, Braille renditions of books under both USA and UK Copyright can *as of right now* be legally exported to these developing countries … and I am doing so right now and am not 'deterred'. (end quote)

    On 22 OCT 2010 I commented in Mr. Kristof's column in The New York Times :

    (quote) The 'Braille Salt March' is my worldwide venture of my US 501c3 Non Profit — I am involved in providing free Braille renditions of great literature to visually or reading disabled persons of *all* countries; not just the USA or UK as conventional interpretation of Copyright Law would currently allow … (end quote)

    For interpretations of copyright law I rely upon written opinions and statements by the US Copyright Office for the US Copyright Act and the RNIB for the UK 2002 Act.

    I am hoping that some favorable progress is made at WIPO SCCR 21 however as of today there have been no new initiatives at least made publicly … only the existing four proposals.

    Should no significant progress be made, and, as I will have my 60th birthday just following the New Year, I will do my best to let persons at the AAP, IAP, and any other publisher organization know — and quite publicly know — that I will utilize any and all provisions of US and UK VIP Copyright Law as *I* interpret … and then others in the Rights Holder community can have their say.

    I will attempt to widely and very publicly distribute to qualified persons in WIPO Member countries Braille versions of English language works that I consider to be under the purview of the UK (VIP)Act 2002 as per:

    This Braille transcription is made under the Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002, an act to permit, without infringement of copyright, the transfer of copyright works to formats accessible to visually impaired persons, as specified in Section 31A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents act 1988 of the United Kingdom.

    Note: 'Salt March' at UN website — http://www.umovement.org/p/372001-braille-salt-march

  3. says

    Subsequent to posting Comment 1. above, I have found that WIPO is in the middle of a “Carbon Neutrality Project” whose Cover Page includes the following:

    “A balanced IP system has an extremely important role to play in fostering the creation, diffusion and application of clean technologies.The power of human ingenuity is our best hope for restoring the delicate balance between ourselves and our environment. It is our greatest asset in finding solutions to this global challenge, enabling us to move forward from the carbon-based, grey technologies of the past to the carbon-neutral, green innovation of the future.”

    Francis Gurry, Director General, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)


    How can WIPO in their Progress in Carbon Neutrality ‘Progress’ Report* remark that they have eliminated disposable paper cups from the WIPO cafeteria and then encourage — as does the language of the EU and USA WIPO SCCR20 proposal documents — having ‘physical’ heavy Braille paper embossed books flying all over the world?

    * http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/govbody/en/a_48/a_48_16.pdf

  4. says

    In the WIPO SCCR Secretariat document 20_7 it states the following re: question 71:

    “71. Does national statute contain any limitations or exceptions that permit the importation or exportation of material accessible to visually impaired persons?

    “The laws of five Member States include limitations and exceptions permitting the importation or exportation of material accessible to visually impaired persons. For example, the copyright law of the United States of America contains a special set of exceptions regarding the copyright holder’s control of distribution (importation and exportation) permitting individuals and authorized entities to engage in many acts of importation to meet the needs of persons with print disabilities.”

    The detailed US response says that ‘authorized entities’ are *already* exempt from restrictions in Sections 106 and 602 regarding distribution of copyright materials. Go figure … especially as juxtaposed with the US delegation’s WIPO SCCR 20_10 ‘Consensus Agreement’.

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