Access Treaty for Visually Impaired Readers (Finally) Steps Forward On EU Ratification 11/05/2017 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)After prevaricating for about three years, the European Union now seems to be about to ratify a treaty lifting copyright across borders for books in special format for visually impaired people. The European Blind Union saluted the agreement as great news for millions of people with visual disabilities but warned that a provision allowing EU members to impose economic compensation on organisations representing blind persons and libraries could run counter to the benefit of the treaty. According to a press release from the European Council, the Maltese EU presidency secured an agreement with the European Parliament on implementing the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty on access to published works for blind and visually impaired persons. It said the action paves the way for ratification. The Marrakesh treaty entered into force in September 2016. “A regulation will implement the Union’s obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty with respect to the exchange of accessible format copies for non-commercial purposes between the EU and third countries that are party to the Marrakesh Treaty,” the release said. A directive is expected “to incorporate the obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty into national domestic legislation. This will ensure an improvement in the availability of accessible format copies for beneficiary persons and their circulation within the internal market,” according to the release. A competency debate kept the EU from ratifying the treaty sooner (IPW, Europe, 14 February 2017). EBU Calls on EU Members Not to Apply Compensation According to David Hammerstein from the World Blind Union and the European Blind Union (EBU), the EBU is satisfied with the agreement reached yesterday. He underlined the EBU’s appreciation of the fact that a proposed amendment on commercial availability was not retained (IPW, Copyright Policy, 21 March 2017). However, “we must express our profound disappointment with a key aspect of the agreed legislation that is unfair and discriminatory against visually-impaired people,” Hammerstein said in a draft EBU position. “We deeply regret that the final agreement, contrary to the position of the European Parliament and the European Commission but promoted by the publishers’ lobby through the German and other governments, allows EU member states to impose upon blind persons organizations and libraries the payment of economic compensation for the distribution of accessible formatted copies of copyrighted works despite the fact that this distribution causes no proven harm to rightsholders,” he said. These optional remuneration/compensation schemes could have a negative impact on the cross-sharing of accessible books, because they add to the “already high costs of producing there specially formatted works, by visually impaired organisations and libraries,” he said. But he added that the approved text contains a number of suggested safeguards in the application of these remuneration. The EBU calls for EU governments not to apply compensation schemes in the transposition of the legislation and the application of the Marrakesh treaty, he said. As final steps, the regulation and the directive will have to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, and the provisions of the directive are expected to be enacted in each national legislation within a maximum period of 12 months. After the European Council’s decision authorising the conclusion of the Marrakesh Treaty, the EU is expected to ratify the treaty, the release said. Image Credits: Flickr – Eloise Lanteaume 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 email@example.com."Access Treaty for Visually Impaired Readers (Finally) Steps Forward On EU Ratification" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.