The View from an Authorized EntityMany Bookshare users (and potential Bookshare users!) have been asking about the Treaty of Marrakesh (formal name: The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities. What’s in it; what does it mean; how does it affect Bookshare members?
In the popular online acronym, IANAL (I am not a lawyer). However, as the founder of the Bookshare online library, we have a great deal at stake in how the Treaty gets implemented. Although it might seem like a complicated document, we’re really excited about it because we think it will greatly improve global access for people with bona fide print disabilities. Here’s our laymen’s take on the major provisions of the Treaty.
The Treaty of Marrakesh, Top Issues:
What’s the goal of the Treaty?The goal of the Treaty is to end the book famine for people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. Ultimately, this community should have equal access to all of the books that are needed for education, employment and social inclusion.
How Does the Treaty Meet this Goal?It does that in two main ways. First, it makes creating a national domestic copyright exception an obligation of countries that ratify the Treaty. That makes it legal in these countries for people with these disabilities, and the organizations that serve them, to make accessible versions of books without having to get permission from the author or publisher. Second, the Treaty allows for easier import and export of accessible versions of books and other copyrighted works. This will reduce duplication of efforts in different countries in adapting the same title. Plus, it will especially help countries with less-developed libraries and services for people with disabilities by making it easier to tap large collections (like Bookshare) in other countries.
Noteworthy Articles in the Treaty:Article 2(a). Works Covered. “literary and artistic works … in the form of text, notation and/or related illustrations, whether published or otherwise made publicly available in any media;”. So, this means books, periodicals and other similar textual works, including audio versions of those titles. It covers music in the form of sheet music, but not audio or videos of performances. It doesn’t cover movies.
Article 2(c). Defines Authorized Entity. The role of the Authorized Entity is critical in the Treaty, and it’s a straightforward definition. It’s a nonprofit or government agency that makes accessible copies of Works, and limits distribution of those copies to people with bona fide disabilities, the “Beneficiary Persons,” defined in the next article.
Article 3. Defines Beneficiary Persons. It’s a great definition that includes just about any disability that interferes with the effective reading of printed material. It includes people who are blind, visually impaired, reading disabled (example: dyslexia) or have a physical disability that gets in the way of effectively holding a book, turning pages or focusing on the page. We don’t think it changes who qualifies for Bookshare in the United States, though, but we’re delighted that it clearly included people with learning disabilities like dyslexia, who represent over 75% of our current users in the United States.
Article 4. Countries should enact a domestic copyright exception so that Authorized Entities can make accessible copies of Works without getting permission from the rightsholders. This is satisfied by having a law like the Chafee Amendment in the U.S., or similar laws in other countries like India and the EU.
Articles 5 and 6. Cross border exchange to be permitted, both between authorized entities and directly from one authorized entity to individuals in other countries. This is really important for Bookshare, which has implemented the ability to both partner with schools and organizations to download books for specific individuals (our organizational account) and for individuals with disabilities to download books themselves (our individual account, “having your own library card”). We think of this latter capability as crucial for equality and autonomy for our members, to have the ability to choose the books they want to read without needing an intermediary.
Article 7. Technological Protection Measures. These are the digital locks that make it hard to copy digital content. They are intended to prevent the making of illegal copies, but often have the unintended consequence of stopping access by people with disabilities who need the text to be spoken aloud or converted into Braille or large print. This article says it should be legal to circumvent TPMs so that a person with a print disability can get access to books. This is a crucial provision for the future, because more and more books will be published solely in digital form.
Article 8. Respect Privacy. When implementing the Treaty provisions, countries should ensure that the privacy of people with disabilities is protected equally as that of people without disabilities.