Last Drafting Effort On WIPO Treaty For The Blind Before Diplomatic Conference

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In an effort to clean up a draft treaty text providing limitations and exceptions to copyright for blind and visually impaired persons, World Intellectual Property Organization members will meet this week for intense drafting sessions. The text, once cleaned, is expected to be sent to a top-level treaty negotiation in June.

The Informal Session and Special Session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) is meeting from 18-20 April. Delegates will be working on a draft text [pdf] of an international instrument/treaty on limitations and exceptions for visually impaired persons/persons with print disabilities.

According to Michele Woods, director of the WIPO Copyright Law Division Culture and Creative Industries Sector, among the remaining issues are: commercial availability, the provisions on the cross-border exchange of accessible format copies, technical measures of protection, and the right of translation, she told Intellectual Property Watch. Delegates are ideally expected to go through the whole draft text but will likely focus on the core topics and how Articles C (national law limitations and exceptions on accessible format copies), D (cross-border exchange of accessible format copies) and E (importation of accessible format copies) will operate, she said.

A revised version of the draft text is expected to be released at the end of the three-day meeting with possible intermediary drafts. At the end of the third day, the preparatory committee will meet to decide whether to send the updated text to serve as the basic proposal for the diplomatic conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, from 17-28 June, according to WIPO.

The preparatory committee could also examine some issues left open in the draft administrative and final clauses for the treaty, although those matters could be addressed in Marrakesh, Woods said. Among those issues are the eligibility for becoming party to the treaty, and the conditions of the entry into force of the treaty, which are articles (not numbered) with remaining brackets in the Draft Administrative Provisions and Final Clauses of the Treaty to be Considered by the Diplomatic Conference.

The SCCR already held a special session dedicated to further drafting of the treaty text from 18-22 February (IPW, WIPO, 23 February 2013).

According to several developing countries at the February meeting, main concerns remain in Article D on cross-border exchange of accessible format copies. This issue is the principle raison d’être of the treaty, which was requested by visually impaired people to be able to access special format copies of books across borders. Article D contains references to commercial availability.

Developed countries at the February meeting insisted on the need for more work on the text.

The World Blind Union, whose members would be the prime beneficiaries of the treaty, said in February, “We are not copyright experts and do not have particular views on the three-step test, or fair dealings, or fair use, except to the degree that whatever language is agreed facilitates the practical implementation of a system that allows the maximum access to materials by blind and visually impaired people throughout the world” (IPW, WIPO, 21 February 2013).

“Time is short and WBU urges the negotiators to agree on a simple and workable treaty” for blind and visually impaired people, a WBU representative told Intellectual Property Watch.

Catherine Saez may be reached at

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  1. says

    The International Publishers Association (IPA) Newsletter #101 issued within the last few days said regarding the above proposed WIPO Treaty:

    “We will probably have a treaty. However, whether it will then be ratified by member states is another question.”

    So the rear-guard effort against ratification at the individual Member Country level, especially the notion that the Treaty as currently proposed and presumably would be passed, does NOT meet the requirements of the 3-step test, has maybe begun.


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