Big Week For WIPO Marrakesh Treaty On Access For Visually Impaired; Human Rights Side Under Focus 03/10/2016 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 3 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)The World Intellectual Property Organization treaty on copyright exceptions for print-disabled readers entered into effect on 30 September, and trading in accessible format works began immediately. This week, the treaty will be a highlight of the annual WIPO General Assemblies, and is expected to come up at the parallel UN Social Forum taking place next door. The WIPO General Assemblies are taking place from 3-11 October. The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled was adopted on 27 June 2013, and the 20th WIPO member ratified it on 30 June 2016, bringing it into force 90 days later on 30 September. The first-ever meeting of the Marrakesh Treaty Assembly is scheduled to take place on 5 October at WIPO. The Social Forum of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is taking place from 3-5 October at the UN Palais. The theme of the 2016 session of the Social Forum is the “promotion and full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities in the context of the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD),” according to the event website. The Marrakesh Treaty is not technically on the agenda of the Social Forum but advocates are hoping it will be raised, and possibly included in the outcome document of the forum. Copyright’s Human Rights Treaty The Marrakesh Treaty is “a huge, big deal for us,” Penny Hartin, CEO of the World Blind Union, said in an interview. The WBU has a multi-tiered campaign to get the word out on the treaty, she said, which started with getting ratifications, and included an upcoming treaty implementation guide to help aid understanding. Prof. Laurence Helfer of Duke University Law School, one of the authors asked by the WBU to draft the implementation guide, said in an interview that the hope is the treaty “will not be seen as only an IP treaty, but also as an agreement that uses copyright to achieve human rights objectives. Marrakesh is thus one of the first treaties that is focused on the public interest side of IP law.” Fellow guide author Prof. Molly Land, a human rights law professor at the University of Connecticut, said there is a connection between the Marrakesh Treaty and human rights treaties, such as the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). They are looking at how “ratifying and implementing the treaty is one way that states can fulfil their obligations under these other human rights instruments.” “At the crossroads of human rights and IP, it’s really important to be able to see the treaty in light of both regimes,” she said. “Both in interpreting it, and also in implementation. States have commitments under both IP treaties and human rights treaties, and the guide is about how states can bring those together in implementation.” “The treaty has gotten quite a bit of play in the IP community, less so in the human rights community,” said Helfer. “One of the reasons Molly and I came to Geneva now, is to begin a process of talking about the Marrakesh Treaty in human rights venues.” So for instance, this week WIPO is planning an event aimed at welcoming its new treaty. But it probably will not be attended by many people focussed on human rights issues,” he said. “There are reasons why this matters at the practical level,” said Helfer. “One of the things that I think makes the treaty unique is that it spans both of the regimes, [so] it would be important for both IP groups and agencies nationally as well as human rights agencies and organisations to be involved in accession and implementation.” It is hoped that those discussions “will result in coming up with legislation that addresses both IP and human rights and the reconciliation between the two,” said Land. “That means concretely, for example, involving the branches of government on the national level that address human rights such as national human rights institutions which are largely independent agencies that have a variety of different tasks … but also human rights advocates. This is an opportunity also for them to take the treaty and get involved with it.” It is not clear whether any countries are planning to announce ratification of the treaty at this week’s WIPO General Assembly. First Transfers of Books Marking the first day of the Marrakesh Treaty’s entry into force, WIPO “organized a symbolic transfer of accessible books in audio format from Canada to Australia through the book service of the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC),” the consortium said in a release. “For the first time, this transfer will occur without the legal obligation to request permission from the copyright owners,” it said. The transfer from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) to Vision Australia via the ABC Book Service “means that Vision Australia does not need to reproduce the books themselves, thereby incurring savings of approximately USD 2000 per book,” ABC said. But that was not the only book transfer that was made to mark the day. A group in Latin America also hailed the receipt by libraries of eight countries in the region of a first collection of 120 accessible format works of Latin American authors in digital text and audio available across all ratifying nations. La Asociación Tiflonexos (Argentina) – Biblioteca Tiflolibros, la Biblioteca Argentina para Ciegos y la Editora Nacional Braille – issued a press release (in Spanish) proclaiming 30 September as “an historic day for people with visual disabilities around the world!” Latin American countries have been leaders in embracing the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty and now are quickly seeing the benefits. The release said the group hopes this will be the beginning of a great network and exchange that rapidly increases the availability of accessible format books. [Update:] On 30 September in Santiago, Chile, a first international exchange of accessible formats under the Marrakesh Treaty took place between Brazil, Chile and Argentina. The event was jointly organised by the Latinoamerican Unión For The Blind (ULAC), Innovarte, TifloLibros and the Chilean Union of Blind Institutions, according to a notice on the ip-health listserv. The Chilean Library Association and other civil society attended the event. Audio books provided by Chile were made by Biblioteca Central de Ciegos. The event took place at a venue provided by the Defensoria Discapacidad. New Implementation Guide to Marrakesh Coming Soon The Marrakesh treaty itself is considered by proponents to be fairly straightforward and simple enough to provide a model for countries looking to add it to their laws, the professors said. But the guide to understanding and implementing the treaty and its provisions is near completion by a set of academics commissioned by the WBU. As to who and what is covered under the Marrakesh Treaty, a WIPO summary of the treaty states: “beneficiary persons are those affected by a range of disabilities that interfere with the effective reading of printed material. The broad definition includes persons who are blind, visually impaired, or print disabled or persons with a physical disability that prevents them from holding and manipulating a book.” It continues: “Works ‘in the form of text, notation and/or related illustrations, whether published or otherwise made publicly available in any media’, including audio books, fall within the scope of the [treaty] regime. Get the Word Out: Great Upside for Developing Countries Why would any developing country not leap at the chance to ratify this treaty which dramatically increases the number of accessible format books its population can access? “We’ve asked the same question,” said Hartin. “It will make a huge difference for access to education and employment for so many print-disabled constituents in their countries. What we’re being told is that in so many developing countries there’s so many issues that they’re dealing with, whether it’s refugee crisis, making sure people get food on the table, [and] there’s still a lot of conflict in many countries. So while they agree that it’s important, it’s one of a whole bunch of things that are important. That’s really the barrier. So how do we elevate it?” That’s where raising awareness of the treaty comes in. “That’s part of why we’re here,” said Land. “To raise that awareness.” Governments are not dragging their feet due to conflicting lobbying, they said. “It’s just not at the top of their priority list,” Hartin said. Helfer said, “When you see it actually working, and it’s not just a hypothetical. And when we get some information out [showing] that it’s actually working, I imagine it will be like with other human rights treaties. You get a bandwagon effect. You get a slow group of ratifications up to entry into force – it’s like an S curve – and then the slope goes up very quickly and then you taper off when you get full ratification.” That is a common pattern for human rights treaties, he said. Asked about protection of copyrighted works under the exceptions treaty, Helfer said, “This is an exception to copyright that has a very long pedigree,” said Helfer. It is mentioned in the latest version of the Berne Convention as being “presumptively okay,” and it’s a very discreet exception for a quite well-defined community that otherwise is not served by the existing market. The treaty is very clear that authorised entities make and share these works for beneficiary purposes, they are not global sharing. It’s very, very targeted.” It has to follow its own practices on issues like protection and privacy, to ensure that only that beneficiary community benefits. And Hartin noted that in general, people who are blind or have other print disabilities are “far more aware” of copyright than the rest of the population, because they have been “told forever that we can’t have this because of copyright, and can’t have that because of copyright.” So “we’re really aware of what the law is, what’s allowed and isn’t allowed,” she said. 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