Four More WIPO Members Sign Marrakesh Treaty For Visually Impaired 30/04/2014 by Catherine Saez and MaÃ«li Astruc for Intellectual Property Watch 7 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)During a signing ceremony held today at the World Intellectual Property Organization, the European Union, France, Greece and India signed the treaty adopted last June to provide a wider access to copyrighted books in special format for visually impaired people. The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled has now been signed [pdf] by 64 of WIPO’s 187 members. The Marrakesh Treaty will enter into force three months after 20 parties have deposited their instruments of ratification or accession. To date no countries appear to have implemented the treaty. The signing ceremony was held during the 27th session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) taking place from 28 April to 2 May. France Ambassador after signing the Marrakesh Treaty and WIPO Director General© WIPO 2014. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said at the event that the signature of the treaty by a country is a public indication of its commitment to the goals of the treaty. In this case, the goal is to end a book famine by improving access to published works in accessible formats for the 260 million blind persons in the world as well as those affected with other print disabilities. India signing the Marrakesh Treaty© WIPO 2014. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod The Indian delegate said India introduced copyright exceptions for physically disabled people, including visually impaired people, through the copyright amendment Act of 2012, which came into effect in June 2012. The Act is in accordance with the Marrakesh Treaty, she said, adding that “India will be ratifying this treaty very soon.” However, the task does not end here, she said, adding, “We have to put in place appropriate mechanisms to implement the provisions of this treaty in its true spirit with cooperation of all of the member states and the international bureau of WIPO.” A Greek delegate, speaking in her national capacity and in the presidency for the European Union, said, “we want to convey a strong message that we want this treaty to work and serve its original purpose, that is to accommodate the needs of blind and print disabled [persons] when it comes to access to books and to other print material.” European Union signing the Marrakesh Treaty© WIPO 2014. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod The European Union ambassador separately said the negotiations at WIPO were complex but they resulted in a treaty that is targeted and balanced. It meets the needs of print disabled persons, she said, but “does not limit the rights of authors and publishers beyond what is necessary to achieve its purposes.” “This treaty will make a difference for many people around the world,” she said. “Therefore, we should all make our best efforts towards its rapid ratification and entry into force.” The representative of the European Blind Union said when the treaty is ratified it will open up “huge new opportunities ” for over 30 million blind and partially sighted people living in Europe in terms of access to information and culture, as well as people with other print disabilities. He also called for a speedy ratification of the treaty in signatory countries. Ratification must be as widespread as possible, he said, because only organisations in countries which ratify the treaty will be able to exchange books under the terms of this treaty. European Blind Union making a statement during the signature ceremony of the Marrakesh Treaty© WIPO 2014. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod The Marrakesh Treaty has been devised to facilitate cross-border exchange of copyrighted books in special formats. The International Publishers Association representative said the Marrakesh Treaty is a humanitarian treaty and “humanitarian treaties do not allow for delay.” He underlined the importance of collaboration between organisations representing of the visually impaired and those representing right holders “who want their works to be available to everybody at the same time, the same place, in whatever format they chose” to achieve the goals of the treaty. Panellists Underline Implementation Challenges Meanwhile, a 28 April side event to the SCCR, discussed implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty with a focus on advancing accessibility in India. G.R. Raghavender, registrar of copyrights and a director in the Indian Copyright Office, said that organisations entitled to produce copies in accessible formats have to work for non-profit purposes, and can only charge expenses for the copy. Organisations that want to produce copies in accessible format on a profitable basis have to apply to the Copyright Board and can be granted a compulsory licence. Raghavender said India’s ratification of the treaty is expected by the end of May 2014. Other panellists at the side event were: Ashok Gupta, president of the Federation of Indian Publishers; Dipendra Manocha, president of the DAISY forum of India, which is a network of 94 organisations aiming at providing books in accessible formats for visually impaired people; and Charudatta Jadhav, head of innovation strategy at TATA Consultancy Services, which developed an online platform of accessible copies. Panellists highlighted challenges that India is facing in implementing the Marrakesh Treaty, as 25 percent of the world blind population lives in India, a large country counting 22 official languages and 24 states. Addressing technology gaps, capacity-building and training of all stakeholders, collaboration between publishers and accessible formats copies producers, translation to and adaptation from all Indian languages were some of the challenges addressed to make books accessible for the visually impaired community in India. “We considered how technology can help to work on these challenges” said Jadhav. Gupta and Manocha stressed the need for capacity building at several levels and for training to the industry, but also to visually impaired persons, notably to use the technological devices. Gupta said the Marrakesh Treaty is a “balanced treaty” which takes into account “interests of all stakeholders in a reasonable manner.” A lot of entities will be authorised to produce books in accessible formats said Gupta, who suggested a centralised agency to regulate those entities and to serve as a central depository. The side event was the second of a WIPO series entitled, From Policy to Practice: Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty and making accessible books available. Dilip Sinha, ambassador and permanent representative of India to the United Nations, was the moderator of the panel. 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