Treaty For Visually Impaired Advancing At WIPO; Countries Ask For More Transparency

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The first results of the World Intellectual Property Organization negotiations on the draft text of a treaty to facilitate visually impaired persons’ access to books in special formats were presented this morning. Progress was reported by the WIPO secretariat, but some countries asked that more delegates be allowed to participate in the small group drafting discussions.

The WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) is meeting from 19-23 November.

Meeting Chair Darlington Mwape of Zambia announced yesterday (IPW, WIPO, 19 November 2012) that three days of the 25th session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights taking place from 19-23 November would be devoted to advancing the text of the treaty/instrument in a small setting of country coordinators plus five delegates.

This morning, the secretariat issued a set of five documents showing progress registered yesterday. They are:

Preamble of the instrument [pdf]
Article E [pdf]
Article F
Article G [pdf]
Article J [pdf]

The preamble is structured in paragraphs, whereas the rest of the treaty appears in articles.

According to the secretariat, the preamble is much shorter than it was, with 12 paragraphs instead of the 17 in the last document. The twelfth paragraph, which is a text proposed by the African Group, is still pending, the secretariat said. The issue on this paragraph is the proposal that the new instrument be consistent only with the Berne Convention, proposed by the African Group, while the European Union would prefer to add a reference to “other international conventions,” including the Berne Convention.

A newcomer in the preamble is paragraph eight, which contains several brackets. The eighth paragraph deals with the role of rights holders in making their works accessible to persons with visual and print disabilities in case the market is preventing such access.

Four articles were addressed by delegates. On Article E on importation of accessible format copies, questions remain about who should be authorised to import an accessible format copy of a work without the authorisation of the right holder. On Article F on obligations concerning technological measures, alternative B is based on the 2012 Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances. Alternative B addresses in particular the question of the protection against circumvention of technological measures, which may hinder the implementation of exceptions and limitations for visually impaired people.

No consensus was found yet on Article G on relationship with contracts. The article has gained a new alternative, bringing to three the number of options, all of which are in brackets. At stake is the interaction between commercial contracts and the future treaty. Some developing countries are concerned that the treaty might hinder their sovereignty in some areas. The new alternative (c) asks that member states “may establish in their national legislation that any contract which contains clauses contrary to the limitations or exceptions provided for the beneficiary persons under this instrument/Treaty those clauses may be considered null in accordance their national law.” [sic]

The last article discussed yesterday was Article J on the list of authorised entities. This article was previously titled “registry of authorized entities.” The secretariat said that there had been some clarifications and now “the idea is just to facilitate the recognition and the identification of authorised entities.” The article is now a provision that proposes a list of authorised entities, on a voluntary basis in principle, the secretariat said, adding that various delegations had committed to continue working on the articles presented this morning.

Delegates Request Larger Room for Transparency and Inclusiveness

Today, the informal sessions were to start after the short plenary meeting displaying results of yesterday, but a number of delegations, including Venezuela, Egypt, India, and Japan, asked that informal sessions be held in a larger room than the one holding the sessions yesterday.

Some proposed to hold future informal sessions in room A, which is the plenary room, or in a room in the new WIPO building. The delegations said the room was crowded, making the participation difficult.

India said that for the sake of transparency, and given that this is the final stage of the negotiations, more coordination is needed between the Geneva-based delegates and the experts coming from the capital. She said the strict format of the informal sessions might create a gap and asked for more participation by member states and more people than one per delegation.

Japan also said that although informal sessions served the purpose of efficiency, much more transparency is needed.

The United States, although sympathetic to the concerns of several delegations, said that during informal meetings it was “very important that people can be face to face, and this kind of legislative setting is not conducive to the kind of discussions we need,” referring to the use of room A.

The secretariat said the meeting room in the new building was already booked and it would be difficult to make arrangements before the afternoon. The secretariat added that in the new building translations would only be available in two languages. It was proposed that a private transcript of the meeting be delivered in a side room near the plenary, for the sole use of member states.

The chair said he took note of the concerns. For the morning, delegates met in the same room as yesterday, while the chair was consulting with the secretariat about the room in the new building.

Catherine Saez may be reached at

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