New Draft Text Issued By WIPO Negotiators For Visually Impaired Treaty

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World Intellectual Property Organization delegates this week have launched into negotiations expected to yield the first treaty creating exceptions and limitations to copyright for the benefit of visually impaired people. Many delegations have said much work remained to be done in the next ten days to breach differences. A new text on commercial availability was released this evening .

The “Diplomatic Conference to conclude a Treaty to facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities” is taking place from 17-28 June in Marrakesh, Morocco.

The new draft text on commercial availability is available here [pdf]. The status of this document was not clear at press time.

According to the rules of procedures adopted on 18 June with the understanding that the composition of the drafting committee was not yet settled and would be issued later, the diplomatic conference has two main committees. Committee I is in charge of proposing text for adoption by the plenary, and Committee II is responsible for proposing for adoption by the plenary of “any administrative and the final clauses of the Treaty.”

Committee I started work on the afternoon of 18 June, at the close of the first plenary session. According to sources, negotiators have been discussing the issue of commercial availability, which was one sore point in the negotiations leading to the diplomatic conference (IPW, WIPO, 14 June 2013).

Commercial availability appears in Article D (3) (Cross-border exchange of accessible format copies) of the new draft text. This refers to a limitation on cross-border exchange in the case that commercially available copies of special format work exist, within reasonable time and price in the country of importation. It has been vigorously opposed by some developing countries and associations representing blind persons.

Tonight, a new draft proposal was issued in Committee I, for Article D(3) including a series of proposals the United States, the European Union, and the African Group, and informal proposals by Ecuador, and Singapore. The draft proposal was posted by Knowledge Ecology International.

The African Group proposed that “whenever an authorized Entity in a Contracting Party/Member States requests a copy of an accessible format copy, such request shall constitute sufficient evidence that the work requested is not commercially available in the importing country for beneficiary persons.”

The European Union said in its opening statement [pdf], “We are ready to explore all possible compromises that stay within our objective and reach an acceptable level of legal certainty.” The group appears to have proposed in Article D(3) some soothing language for opponents of the commercial availability clause. It states: “Furthermore, it is understood that this Article does not imply [that national law should impose] any duty on the exporting authorized entity to investigate whether the work in the particular accessible format can be obtained under reasonable terms for beneficiary persons in the receiving country or any action that will delay the distribution or making available of the accessible format copy to beneficiary persons.”

In the “informal proposal” of the draft proposal, appears the notion of interoperability, which has been advocated by blind people.

The draft text, as it stands, is still punctuated with brackets (reflecting areas of disagreement).


William New may be reached at

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