Now is the time to take action to support availability of books in accessible formats.
A proposed treaty now being considered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) would enact copyright exception to enable authorized public and non-profit entities to produce accessible versions of published works for use by eligible persons with print disabilities.
The copyright exception is similar to the Chafee Amendment in the United States. It would also allow sharing of accessible formats (e.g., Braille, large print, and accessible digital formats such as DAISY audio and text) – across borders.
Why is the treaty important, and how can you support it?
Why is the treaty needed?
The American Council of the Blind estimates that U.S. citizens with print disabilities have access to only 5% of published works – and that others around the world with print disabilities have access to only 1% of published content.
Ars Technica explains, in a recent article:
The digital revolution, in theory, should have dramatically increased access to the world’s information for people with print disabilities. Converting old-fashioned paper books to accessible formats was time and cash intensive. Digital technology such as text-to-speech make it easier to produce accessible editions – and the internet makes it easier to distribute them.
But – copyright laws limit access to e-books. In some countries, libraries and other non-profits must seek permission individually from the creator of each work before producing accessible versions of books in other formats. This laborious process results, in practice, in just a small percentage of works being available in accessible formats. (paraphrased, see full article here.)
The American Library Association, which supports the proposed treaty, explains that it would enable international book lending for eligible persons with print disabilities via specific exceptions to copyright law.
You can access a draft of the proposed treaty here.
An in-depth article by Mary Bertlesman in the Syracuse Journal of Science and Technology Law explains in detail how the proposed WIPO treaty would impact copyright law and promote access to published works by persons with print disabilities. Access the article here.
An article in Huffington Post by Jim Fruchterman, founder of Benetech (which administers Bookshare) explains the roadblocks and complications on the road to an effective treaty. Access the article here.
Treaty negotiations are intense, with voting scheduled for June.
Powerful corporations are joining forces to oppose the proposed treaty.
Self advocates and their supporters must make their voices heard.
Two petitions are currently circulating.
- The American Council of the Blind petition
- The American Library Association (ALA) WhiteHouse.gov petition. Learn more here. Access petition here.
Let’s spread the word about this important issue!
Time is short.
Please consider signing the petitions and sharing this post with others.
Together – let’s fight for access to reading for all!