Friday, June 21, 2013

WIPO Treaty Should Allow Libraries to Make All Books Accessible to Visually Impaired Patrons

Jim Fruchterman reports that EU countries are standing in the way of provisions that would allow libraries to make or import an accessible version of a book that it has in its collection, even if a commercially available work in that format already exists.  Reports come from the currently-underway Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities.

There are proposals on the table that would force some entities, including the visually impaired themselves, to buy accessible copies of works if they are commercially available, rather than making or importing such versions under a limitation or exception to copyright.  Libraries should not be forced to do this.  It would be impossible for a library to purchase an accessible duplicate of every book in the library; such a requirement would prevent and does prevent libraries from making all of its works available in accessible format to the visually impaired.  Such a requirement guarantees the inaccessibility of most books.

As I said in a previous post, two groups are especially affected by visual impairments: children and the elderly.  The new treaty should promote reading by putting in place provisions that ensure any book can be made available by libraries, through import or through making an accessible version - certainly for books that they have in their collection.  The treaty should ensure that everyone can borrow any book from the library.

Private solutions have never solved the access problems for the visually impaired and probably never will.  Both books and the visually impaired have been around for hundreds of years, and the problem isn't solved yet; it is currently estimated that only 5% of works are available in a accessible format.  What's the holdup?  Clearly, it is time for governments to step in.

The Canadian delegation, along with all others, should support provisions that ensure any book can be lent by libraries in accessible format, through importing or making an accessible version, to its patrons.


1 comment:

  1. And from where did the notion of 'commercial availablity' originate? Here is one answer --

    From the WIPO Secretariat Report SCCR18/7:

    155. The Representative of the World Blind Union (WBU) expressed its appreciation to the Delegations of Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay for their role in mentoring the treaty proposal.

    The raison d’ĂȘtre of the Committee was to protect the legitimate rights of rightsholders, the
    creators, and at the same time protect the general public interest. The campaign on behalf of
    visually impaired persons did not jeopardize the economic rights of rightsholders.

    If a rightsholder decided to produce any of its works in accessible formats the proposed
    exceptions to those rights would be automatically NULL AND VOID.