Marrakesh Treaty For Blind Readers Jeopardised By EU Publishing Industry Lobbying, Group Says 21/03/2017 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 4 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 treaty adopted almost four years ago in Marrakesh allowing for exceptions to copyright for the benefit of visually impaired people was hailed as a victory for human rights over private rights. However, as the European Union is preparing to ratify the treaty, according to a civil society group report, intense lobbying by the publishing industry is influencing the debate and might diminish the hard-gained ground in the treaty on copyright exceptions. The World Blind Union, meanwhile, said it finds the report “revealing and shocking”. New research [pdf] by the Corporate Europe Observatory titled, “From Marrakesh to Brussels: the long arm of the EU copyright lobby,” says “certain EU member states and Members of the European Parliament have sought to prioritise the economic interest of the publishers’ lobby over support for print-disabled people.” The 2013 Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled sought to address the issue of cross-border exchange of special format books. Prior to the treaty, due to international copyright obligations and in the absence of dedicated exceptions to copyright in national laws, it was very difficult to share special formal books between countries, which was creating what was described as “a book famine” in developing countries for people with visual impairment. The Marrakesh Treaty, managed by the World Intellectual Property Organization, entered into effect on 30 September 2016. According to the Corporate Europe Observatory, Germany and the United Kingdom “have been pushing amendments that risk to undermine the provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty.” For example, the report says that “The German government in particular has been pushing hard to include strong publisher compensation rights in the Marrakesh Treaty, which exist in a controversial draft form as part of a separate EU level directive, the “Copyright in the Digital Single Market” (DSM) directive.” Among the specific lobbyists, the report cites the Federation of European Publishers, the International Publishers’ Association, and the International Federation of Reproductive Rights’ Organisations, as well as the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels. The report also notes that eight countries: Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Romania, and the UK argued that the matters within the Marrakesh Treaty were not an EU competence, “although the European Court of Justice has recently rejected this view.” Two Worrying Proposed Amendments In the context of the upcoming 23 March vote on the Marrakesh Treaty in the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs and a relevant European Council decision expected on 22 March, the Corporate Europe Observatory said two elements of the proposed amendments are particularly worrying. The first proposed provision is for publishers’ compensation “whenever an organisation turns a document into an accessible format, which would make their production even more expensive.” The second is a clause on commercial availability. The issue of commercial availability caused dissension during the negotiations leading up to the Marrakesh Treaty (IPW, WIPO, 25 June 2013) and (IPW, WIPO, 1 July 2013). According to the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), a clause on commercial availability would, for example, “create uncertainty about which books from overseas could be made available domestically, or prevent accessible books from being placed in lending libraries if they are already available to buy. The latter would arguably be a form of discrimination against print-disabled people considering that sighted people can borrow library books that can also be bought in a shop.” Yet another worry, according to CEO, is “a proposal that there should be a mandatory register of ‘authorised entities’ who would be the only ones able to make accessible-format books. Industry argues that this would reduce piracy and ensure quality; some campaigners worry this could be a further bar to the production and dissemination of accessible-format works.” CEO also alleges a lack of transparency and accountability by the Council, underlining the difficulty of tracking decision-making. Most Special Format Books Produced in EU According to CEO, the “majority of books in accessible formats are produced in EU member states. Without the active and effective sharing of these books which the Marrakesh Treaty aims to promote, millions of mainly poor print-disabled people in the global south will not gain access to these resources in key languages such as English, Spanish, and French.” CEO underlines the importance of the EU rules implementing the Marrakesh Treaty as it “will be used as template for others, including in the US [United States], where the ratification process is quite advanced but also coming under strong industry pressure.” ‘Revealing and Shocking’ Report, Blind Union Says “This is a revealing and shocking report of how the copyright lobby acts behind the closed doors of the Council to influence EU member states’ positions, even to the extent of ‘copy and paste’, against the right to read of millions of blind and visually-impaired persons that is clearly backed up by international disability law and, in general, the defence of the common good,” David Hammerstein of the World Blind Union told Intellectual Property Watch. CEO “is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making,” according to its website. Image Credits: Flickr – Anna 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."Marrakesh Treaty For Blind Readers Jeopardised By EU Publishing Industry Lobbying, Group Says" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.