Vibrant Lauding Of “Historic” Marrakesh Treaty For The Blind At WIPO 06/10/2016 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment 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)“Great victory”, “life-changing”, “historic milestone” – no adjectives were strong enough yesterday to celebrate the entry into force of the Marrakesh treaty at the World Intellectual Property Organization. The treaty, which went into effect on 30 September, “opens the door to the world’s knowledge,” to visually impaired people, but will need many more countries to join, in particular countries that are major producers of special format books – the United States and the European Union. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and Marcelo Calero, Minister for Culture of Brazil, chair of the Marrakesh Treaty Assembly The treaty is “an historic milestone in the struggle for equal access,” said one representative, in a sentiment widely voiced during the emotional ceremony yesterday. The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled became a reality after 20 members had ratified the treaty. During the first meeting of the Marrakesh Assembly on 5 October, two more countries joined: Botswana and Sri Lanka, with more expected soon. [Update:] Liberia acceded to the treaty on 6 October. The Marrakesh Assembly is part of the WIPO General Assemblies, taking place from 3-11 October. The treaty provides copyright exceptions and limitations for special format books appropriate for blind and visually impaired people so that books can be freely exchanged across borders. Marcelo Calero, new minister of culture of Brazil and newly named chair of the Marrakesh Treaty Assembly, said it is the second time in Brazil’s history that a treaty is incorporated in the Brazilian’s legislation with a constitutional amendment status. The treaty is crucial to fulfil public policy goals related to providing equal opportunities for citizens all over the world, he said. At the same time, the treaty does not harm the legitimate interests of authors and right holders, as the treaty only intend to provide copyright exceptions to specific beneficiaries. “It’s a win-win situation that benefits all,” he added. Most of the now 24 members [note: WIPO website not updated] of the treaty are developing countries, with the exception of Canada and Australia. Marrakesh members, visually impaired people, and civil society called for other countries to join so the treaty can actually deliver its aim. Members of the treaty hailed a “victory of multilateralism,” an instrument which is an example of “an appropriate balance” in the copyright system between protecting the rights of creators and access for visually impaired people. They said the treaty is a historic commitment for the rights of persons with disabilities, and an example of solidarity. It shows that IP can be a tool for social, economic and cultural development, some said. Some of those members underlined the need for WIPO to provide technical assistance, and financial support to treaty members so that implementation can be carried out. The European Union which has been experiencing institutional difficulties in the ratification of the treaty (IPW, Access to Knowledge/Education, 14 September 2016), said it is working to “ensure that the treaty is ratified and becomes part of the EU copyright rules as soon as possible.” “The proposals to ensure compliance of EU legislation with the obligations in the Treaty and the functioning of exchanges within the internal market and with third countries have already been put forward by the European Commission and are currently being discussed in the European Council and the European Parliament. This will pave the way for ratification,” the EU delegate said in his statement. The United States also said the treaty has been submitted to the US Senate for consent so that the treaty can be ratified. Visually Impaired Call for Many More Countries to Join Expansive and heartfelt statements were made by a wide range of stakeholders, such as governments, intergovernmental organisations, representatives of the blind and other print-disabled, civil society, libraries, and others. The World Blind Union, one of the originators of the treaty text, urged all countries, and in particularly signatories of the treaty, to ratify it quickly. Without books to share “the dream of equal access will remain an unfulfilled dream,” the WBU said. A statement by the WBU is available here. Today, few blind children are educated and very few blind people have jobs, the WBU representative said. Another representative of the WBU said he is a member of the National Association of Blind Lawyers in the US. He said he lost his sight at the age of 10, following a viral infection. One of his favourite activities had been reading and “that was taken away, I thought permanently” he said. “But I got that ability back by learning Braille and using other alternative techniques, but I had access to such few works,” he added. Later on in college, he faced the same hurdles when he wanted to major in Spanish to pursue a degree in international business management, and had to renounce, because he could not get access to special formal books in Spanish, he said. “My story is not unique,” he said. “We must gain ratification of Marrakesh throughout the world,” he said. Short of this, the treaty will remain “a bunch of words on a piece of paper,” he said. A number of civil society organisations which had been lobbying in favour of the treaty during negotiations also joined voices to hail the treaty. Many key players in the process were thanked by name during the ceremony. [Update:] Interventions were also made this week by representatives of the blind and human rights lawyers at the Social Forum taking place next door at the United Nations Palais in Geneva. An informal summary of their statements is attached here. Other Issues at the Assembly The WIPO Patent and Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Union Assembly approved Turkey as an International Searching Authority. PCT International Searching and Preliminary Examining Authorities establish international search reports and nonbinding international preliminary examination reports, both of which will provide the applicant with a more comprehensive overview of the relevant prior art and enable him to better assess his chances of obtaining patent protection for his invention in any of the Contracting States of the PCT, according to WIPO. Separately, five organisations were approved as observers to WIPO. Information on the observers is here. They are: (a) INTERNATIONAL NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs) (i) African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA); (ii) Centre International d’Investissement (CII Suisse); (iii) Medicines for Africa. (b) NATIONAL NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs) (i) Japan Intellectual Property Association (JIPA); (ii) Karisma Foundation.  For the principles applicable in extending invitations to national NGOs, as observers, adopted by the Assemblies at their Thirty-Seventh series of meetings, from September 23 to October 1, 2002, see document A/37/14, paragraph 316. Image Credits: WIPO 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) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Vibrant Lauding Of “Historic” Marrakesh Treaty For The Blind At WIPO" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.