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    Publishers Seek Support For Their Approach To WIPO Treaty

    Published on 16 December 2012 @ 4:06 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    As the World Intellectual Property Organization prepares to hold an Extraordinary General Assembly this week to decide on convening a high-level meeting to negotiate a new treaty on limitations and exceptions for blind and other visually impaired people, publishers are defending their position.

    In particular, they are adamant that the exceptions and limitations should be subject to commercial unavailability. Developing countries, in particular African countries, have said that this clause would diminish the value of the would-be treaty in particular because it would impose a burden on associations working with visually impaired people.

    Interviewed by Intellectual Property Watch, Jens Bammel, secretary general of the International Publishers Association in Geneva, said, “Our view is that every person who is print disabled should have equal access to content.”

    “It would be a defeat for the instrument if it did not actually lead to massively improved access,” he said.

    In the current draft text, entities authorised through the terms of the treaty to provide accessible format works would have to make sure that commercially available formats of those works are not already accessible to visually impaired people on the national market.

    According to Bammel, the concerns about the inclusion of commercial availability in the treaty are acknowledged, but solvable. The first question is to know how authorised entities find out whether something is available in another country, he said. The same “discovery tools” used to search for available works could be used to gather information on the commercial availability of those works, he added.

    “Nobody has an interest in burdening anybody with a difficult search and discovery exercise,” he said. The wording of the instrument should not create a further burden, he added, but at the same time there should be a recognition and an incentive for the publishers to make works accessible directly themselves.

    “Exceptions for formats of works, such as hardcopy Braille, that are exclusively useful for persons with print disability are a marginal issue. That is of little concern to publishers,” Bammel said. “Publishers would have no concern to see these kinds of formats circulate more widely and for free.”

    However, “at the heart of the debate are digital universally accessible files and e-books,” he said, because they have features that make them “fully accessible through eyes, ears and touch.”

    “They have a commercial value and access to them is attractive for anyone.” he said.

    Publishers Not Charging for Accessible Works

    “I am not aware of a single publisher who charges for books or digital files they provide to organisations serving persons with print disability,” Bammel said.

    He referred to Bookshare, a non-profit organisation distributing accessible books to visually impaired people or the WIPO Trusted Intermediary Global Accessible Resources Project (TIGAR) aiming at enabling “publishers to make their titles easily available to trusted intermediaries,” according to WIPO. (Note: The World Blind Union has suspended its participation in the project since March 2011. This decision will be reconsidered after the General Assembly, according to a WBU source).

    On the other hand, he said, “We are aware that charities have to find a way of financing the international exchange, because it is quite clear there will be some charities which will be net importers and some which will be net exporters.” Net exporters will have to find a way to recover their costs for providing works, he said.

    On the issue of cost, in practice, “it is not going to be the publishers who are going to be charging ‘greedy amounts’. There is a strange image of publishers being painted as being greedy evil people wanting to take money from visually impaired organisations, but there is no evidence in reality for that.”

    “I know of many charities who cannot afford any extra payments, but equally, we are creating an international instrument here,” he said, adding that charities in developed countries recognise that as they exchange works among themselves, there will be “some kind of compensation.”

    “Why should a United States charity not pay anything for a book when it gets it from a United Kingdom or a Canadian charity which have invested a lot of money in its conversion?” he asked. The issue of excessive charges is not relevant as, based on the experience so far, nobody is going to charge libraries from developing countries, neither the visually impaired organisations, nor the publishers, he said.

    Commercial Availability Incentive, WIPO Plenary Room Away from Reality

    Bammel had some suggestions for negotiators this week at WIPO. “Right now, just at the moment where right holders, publishers and authors can finally do what the visually impaired have always wanted us to do, i.e., to be treated like anybody else, the instrument is threatening to weaken this opportunity,” he said.

    “Our ability to serve these readers directly is epitomised in the words ‘commercial availability’,” he said. “If commercial availability was to be out of the instrument, that would disincentivise publishers to provide these formats.”

    “We want our efforts and progress to be acknowledged and encouraged,” he said.

    “In practice people really underestimate the amount of collaboration and good will on all sides, from right holders and libraries serving persons with print disabilities,” he said.

    “There are a lot of things that are happening outside of the WIPO discussions and the only place where the great collaboration and progress we are making is not being acknowledged is in the instrument, and, it appears to me at times, in the WIPO SCCR plenary,” he said.

    Bammel said he hoped WIPO delegates would involve the World Blind Union and rights holders together to discuss these technical issues, such as commercial availability,” he said. “The practical world really looks very different from the image some delegates may have,” he added.

    The instrument being discussed is for the entire world and should serve visually impaired in the developed and developing countries so it should be flexible enough to address different circumstances in different areas, he said.

    Catherine Saez may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

     


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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