Showing posts from June, 2013

Benetech Closing Statement on the Marrakech Treaty

To the Diplomatic Conference in Plenary on  June 27, 2013
On the Adoption of the Treaty of Marrakech
This is an excellent Treaty. The Benetech team is delighted by its adoption today. We have the technology, we have the content, and now we have the legal framework to make it possible for every person with a print disability on the planet to get access to the books they need for education, employment and social inclusion!

At Benetech, we like to think of ourselves as part of Silicon Valley’s heart. We are a high tech organization that is not organized as a for-profit company, but instead as a nonprofit charitable corporation working to ensure technology serves all of humanity. Our goal is not to make money for private interests, but instead to use technology to maximize social good.

For years, we have been working to end the worldwide book famine. This Treaty provides a tremendous tool to accelerate that work. It is our hope that Benetech’s Bookshare library, the authorized entity w…

Technological Protection Measures and the Blind

Why Circumvention for the Purposes of Access is Crucial  A Bookshare Briefing Paper Prepared for the Diplomatic Conference for Visually Impaired Persons The distributors of digital content often use technological protection measures (TPMs) to discourage the making of unauthorized copies. Unfortunately, these TPMs create collateral damage in the form of disabling or hindering activities that are generally permitted. This is especially acute for accessibility for the blind and disabled, where the TPMs cannot technically distinguish between accessing the content for the making of an illegal copy, or accessing the content to speak it aloud with a synthetic voice or to create a Braille version. This has created the ironic situation where blind people, who because of their disability require access to digital copies, have been effectively locked out of purchasing ebooks for the last decade. Each new content delivery system is eagerly tested by technically oriented blind individuals or …

Benetech's Statement to the Treaty Delegates in Marrakech

Benetech, my nonprofit organization operates Bookshare, the largest online library dedicated to serving blind and print disabled people. We have 197,000 books available in the United States today, and serve 250,000 people, mainly in the United States, but also in 40 other countries. Our library is made possible both by a domestic copyright exception that makes it possible for us to add any book requested by a blind person to our library, as well as strong cooperation with publishers who provide many of their books directly to our library for free, including the rights to serve people in certain other countries.

Our library is unusual, in that our charter is to serve all people with print disabilities of the world, not just those in our country. Our focus is on carefully vetting each person as having a qualified print disability through working with trustworthy institutions in our own and other countries, and then letting qualified users loose in a library without limits! And, just…

Gaming for Sustainability: How Balaji Prabhakar’s Lottery Beats Traffic Congestion

Imagine someone offered you $1 to leave the house an hour earlier in the morning so as to shift your commute to an off-peak train. Will you do it? If you’re like most people, you will say no. Now imagine you’d be offered a 1-in-100 chance of winning $100. You might find this offer much more enticing. You may even end up gladly altering your commuting habit. This might seem rather obvious when you consider the behavioral-economics insight that the average person is risk-seeking when stakes are small. But how ingenious it is to apply this insight to reduce congestion-related costs (fuel, pollution, time) and, ultimately, congestion itself in urban areas with some of the world’s worst daily traffic jams!

I love bright ideas that in hindsight seem self-evident and make you wonder why no one thought of them sooner. Such a bright idea is Balaji Prabhakar’s Incentives for Singapore’s Commuters (INSINC) study that aims to reduce traffic congestion in the city-state of Singapore. Balaji, a St…