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Accessible Copyright Treaty Hits New Roadblock

The World Blind Union (WBU) has reacted angrily to a new setback to long-running work on an international copyright treaty which could improve access to accessible books for blind and visually impaired people.

The union has been a key negotiator in talks at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) which have been going on for almost five years. Following the latest round of talks from 18-20 April in Geneva, the WBU released a statement saying the discussions “devoted almost no time to insuring that the treaty will encourage the cross border sharing of desperately needed books for the blind”, concentrating instead on protecting the rights of existing copyright holders.

One of the main areas the WBU has been trying to negotiate is for exceptions in copyright laws which govern the sharing between countries, which would allow easier access to accessible versions of books and other materials.

When a “roadmap” for formalising a treaty was approved in October last year, WBU Vice Chair Dan Pescod had told E-Access Bulletin it signalled the “finish line” in sight. However, Pescod also warned against the creation of a “trophy treaty” which would have little or no use in allowing books to be shared more easily (see E-Access Bulletin 152: )

This threat now seems to be growing. In a statement about the meeting, Fred Schroeder, First Vice President of the World Blind Union, said: “WBU is alarmed that some of the negotiators have focused their efforts almost exclusively on crafting language around copyright protections that have nothing to do with the ability of authorised entities to produce books for the blind and visually impaired.”

A two-week diplomatic conference will now take in place in Morocco in June to finalise the wording of the treaty and discuss how it will be implemented. The latest draft can be viewed in PDF from the links below.

Treaty draft – short link in PDF:

Treaty draft – full link in PDF:


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