Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My remarks just made at WIPO today

Statement of Benetech to the
20th Session of the
Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights

at the World Intellectual Property Organization
June 23, 2010, Geneva, Switzerland

• My nonprofit organization, Benetech, operates Bookshare, the largest online library for people with print disabilities, with the mission of bringing accessible books to all people with print disabilities around the world
• We have roughly 100,000 members in the U.S. with print disabilities, with more than 70,000 copyrighted works in our library, the majority of which have been created under the US copyright exception by volunteers, mainly people with disabilities themselves, helping each other.
• At Bookshare, we have been very sensitive to the complaints of blind and print disabled people around the world, feeling that they have been unfairly denied access to our extensive collection
o My explanation that it’s simply copyright law doesn’t make them feel any better
• We would like a binding instrument so that we can bring all of our collection, including the 15 to 20,000 new books we add every year, to all people with print disabilities
• Until that day, we work directly with publishers to provide voluntary licenses at no charge to us.
• We now have global permissions for around 8,000 copyrighted books out of our 70,000.
• We have been especially successful in receiving blanket agreements from major trade book publishers such as HarperCollins, Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Perseus, Scholastic, Encyclopaedia Britannica, as well as many university presses (including Cambridge U Press). Most publishers don’t say yes or no. Many of the publishers do provide us with permissions do not have global rights, and limit the availability of these books to certain jurisdictions
• We first launched international Bookshare in India and have more than 1000 members there, as well as permissions agreements with more than ten publishers in India
• We have recently concluded agreements with national and regional groups serving people with disabilities in countries including Denmark, Australia, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and China.
o We’d love to serve the community of people with print disabilities in your country, with English and Spanish today and we hope your national languages in the future
o We’re planning on launching an Arabic language service later this year
• As wonderful as these permissions are, several years of work has led to less than 100 publishers making these agreements. Compare that to Google Book Search, with more than 25,000 publishers signed up for their commercial program in a similar time period. Google, who has been sued by the same publishers for alleged copyright violations.
• That is why we have exceptions: to lower transaction costs and secure the civil rights of people with disabilities to have equal opportunity
• That is why we need a binding instrument that makes copyright exceptions a global norm, and allows for import and export of these materials.
• We need a binding instrument that doesn’t give publishers veto power over the organizations who comply with national and international laws and norms
• We need a binding instrument that doesn’t establish a thicket of bureaucratic requirements to discourage access
• We need a binding instrument that makes getting disabled people the books they need easier, and not harder
• If we get that binding agreement, then we can ensure access to printed materials for education, employment and social inclusion for all people with print disabilities around the world.