The Marrakesh Treaty

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled

Why we are campaigning

The treaty sets the legal frame for needed modifications in national copyright regimes to implement legal copyright exemptions for WIPO contracting members to enable authorized entities to share their accessible book collections across national borders with other entities and with blind, low vision and print disabled individuals. This is the first intellectual property treaty benefitting the public interest rather than the interests of rights holders, and closed nearly five years of hard negotiations by the WBU with the active support of the EBU team and in collaboration with other NGOs.

Currently, copyright law is a national jurisdiction which has the effect of preventing blind organizations from sharing books with neighboring countries, thus causing considerable unnecessary duplication of production of books in accessible formats. The treaty will considerably increase the availability of accessible books all over the world and support the mitigation of the predominant book famine. Currently only 5% of all published books in the developed countries and less than 1% in the developing countries are ever produced in accessible formats - such as braille, large print and audio – that visually impaired people and print disabled people need for equal reading enjoyment.

Campaign History

Marrakesh Treaty legislation debated and approved by European Parliament Plenary Session today. Many call on Council to ratify Treaty. (10/07/2017)

European Commission declares that it will closely monitor the transposition of the laws by EU member states to make sure no barriers are created with special reference to the limits and conditions of optionally applying “compensation schemes”. Says Council has no reason to delay ratification.

Plenary Session of the European Parliament, Strasbourg 6-7-17 from 9am to 10 am.

Rapporteur green MEP Max Andersson insisted on why this was very important legislation. He explained the problem of lack of access of visually impaired persons who suffer from “book famine”. He pointed out how these laws meant the EU implementation of Marrakesh Treaty that has been supported by EP as a mandatory and harmonized exception to Copyright. He remarked that the WIPO treaty was already ratified by 30 countries and that it eliminates cross-border barriers to access both inside and outside the EU. This is very important because most visually-impaired persons live in South while most accessible books are in North. This will mean a vast improvement of access to reading material thanks to the sharing books with South.

He said that it was a pity that the publishers lobby has forced Council to drag its feet for years on this issue.

Commisisoner Stylianides on behalf of the European Commission: The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted 4 years ago by WIPO but the EU has been very slow to make progress. This is the first step of the EU digital single market and copyright reform. It creates a harmonized mandatory exception of copyright. It is very important for there to be transparency with regards to compensation schemes which should not be barriers to access when applied by MS.

MEP Helga Stevens, ECR; (speaking with sign language) “This is a small step for humanity but an enormous step for people with disabilities.”

MEP Helga Trupel, Greens: We have taken many years to reach this agreement. Publishers are not threatened by this. I am not against copyright but here is example of a humanitarian action that can change copyright. I call for the treaty to be ratified swiftly.

MEP Dzhambazki ECR: This is a good agreement with the Council. There is now a disagreement in Council on how the Treaty should be ratified.

Rosa Estaras: EPP: This is a big day for people with disabilities. Only 5% of books are in accessible formats and there is a book famine. There must be a balance between creators and general interest. This is the first copyright treaty in world underpinned by human rights law. Awareness has been raised through the debate. Increased access to books will meand that education can help social integration and the fight against poverty.

MEP Margrette Auken, Greens: Thanks to everyone for years of work. There are some possible pitfalls and barriers in these laws. My own Danish Government has protected rightsholders more than blind people. I am afraid that compensation schemes could hurt the access to books by blind people. We must insist that proof needs to be given that there is more than minimal damage to rights holders to allow compensation schemes in EU member states.

MEP Zwiefka EPP: This exception from copyright is very justified. Even I have difficulty reading many texts. We must implement decisions as soon as possible.

MEP Julie Ward: S and D: Marrakesh Treaty is a landmark human rights and fair treaty that was adopted by WIPO in 2013 but the EU has yet to ratify. I call for speedy ratification.

MEP Isabella Adinolfi: 5 star: Marrakesh Treaty is not a mere treaty but an implementation of fundamental rights. Ratification should be soon. We must insure that there are many more works available and we must recognize that compensation schemes can harm access: economic rights should not be above the human right of access to culture.

MEP Boutonnet. ENF: It is unacceptable that 30 million people in the EU have to deal with book famine. The TIGA project and ABC are trying to deal with it.

MEP Synodinos: The Marrakesh Treaty will plug gaps as an exception to copyright but we should be very vigilant that a profit motive is not present that will take advantage of this exception.

MEP Radev: EPP. Finally we are providing more books including audiobooks for the visually impaired and we´ll improve their lives.

MEP Woken: EPP: The Marrakesh Treaty is long over-due. It means EU internal and cross border exchange will be legal. A 12 month transposition period of the laws is OK.

MEP Kuneva:(who is blind) GUE : This is about the right to read and and the right to culture Longtime discrimination has been clear. This is a social justice issue. The EU must ratify now.

 

MEP Libretto: Reading is basic. The EU must be modest. The Marrakesh Treaty is a major step forward but it is thanks to WIPO that we have this victory of solidarity over financial interests.

Other MEPs (names not clear) due to “Catch the Eye” method.

Compensation right should not have been in the agreement because these works already have a very high cost for Blind persons organizations. Member States should not use this option. It is important that dyslexic people have access as well.

MEP Nikemarios S and D: It is all the response to a massive civil society campaign. Many Member States have been dragging their feet on ratification. We must be careful about what lobbies have been planning as barriers such as the compensation right.

MEP Lopes. The texts guarantee access. Tricky at the moment but needs to overcome restrictions that could mean less access. Ratification has been delayed due to a legal problem but 30 million people in EU are awaiting this triumph of the international community for social justice.

A lot more needs to be done. Smart access needs to be facilitated due to UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities commitment by the EU.

Commissioner Stylianidis, European Commission : These laws are related to the Accessibility Act and the Web Accessibility Act. On Ratification: The EU should proceed rapidly and the Commisison proposed it to the Council over 1 and half years ago. The European Court opinion made clear the exclusive EU competence to ratify. There is no reason for further delays on the part of Council. The Commission will support member states in the transposition of these laws and we will monitor correct applicaiton including compensation schemes and their clear limits(only possible if there is more that minimal harm to rightsholders) as established in the principles as established in the legislation to assure they they are legal and they are not barriers for visually impaired persons

MEP Max Andersson: Calls for Council to ratify this quickly. But says it will take more than a year to implement. Thanks the EC for serious and a good approach. Thank you to the Maltese presidency for the compromise with the Council. A special big thanks to the European Blind Union for being an immense asset in all this work over the years.

European Blind Union: Implement this legislation without new barriers and ratify the Marrakesh Treaty with no further delay (05/07/2017)

We are happy that this legislation opens the door for swift EU ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty. Thanks to this legislation cross-border exchange of copyrighted books will be legal without the permission of rights holders for non-profit uses to serve blind and visually-impaired persons.

At the same time we deeply regret that this agreement allows EU member states to impose a “compensatory remuneration” to be paid to rights holders, as we consider this in contradiction with the right-to-read objectives of the Marrakesh Treaty.

Blind people have to deal with books in an inaccessible format; especially, when we look at educational material, where inaccessibility is steadily increasing. Columnized layouts, graphs, pictures, animated balloons and all other means to attract optic attention, until now, cannot be made accessible to blind persons without extensive knowledge, phantasy, and experience. There is no technical tool available to replace these indispensable human resources. It is the non-profit companies with these special services for blind consumers in the respective country that provide these skills.

Article 21 of the UN-CRPD states that accessible information must be made available without additional cost. So any price or fee that amounts to a higher level than the regular price plus an appropriate surcharge with respect to the production of the accessible format will violate article 21 of the UN-CRPD.

If people accept, that basically it should be the publishers who take responsibility for the accessibility of their products, then there is no room for anything but the rgular price they can enforce on the market.

In the transposition of these EU laws into EU member state legislation we shall oppose this unfair application of payment schemes. They are falsely called "compensation schemes" because there is no economic loss to be compensated and governments never have shown any damage done to publishers by accessible formatted works.

 

The next crucial step is for the European Parliament and the Council to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty and to deposit this ratification in Geneva at the World Intellectual Property Organization.  We call upon this to be done with no further delay.

David Hammerstein, Marrakesh Treaty Advocate for EBU, Strasbourg, July 5th,  2017

EBU statement upon the vote in the Legal Affairs Committee on Marrakesh Treaty legislation (29/05/2017)

The European Blind Union thanks the European Parliament for its continuous strong support

We are happy that there has been a legislative agreement in the EU which opens the door for swift EU ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty. The agreement means that cross-border exchange of copyrighted books will be legal without the permission of rightsholders for non-profit uses to serve blind and visually-impaired persons. This political agreement establishes  in the EU a mandatory exception to copyright for the sharing of books accessible for blind and other visually-impaired persons.

At the same time we regret that this agreement allows EU member states to impose a “tax on accessible books” or a “compensation right” to be paid to rightsholders as we consider this in contradiction with the right-to-read objectives of the Marrakesh Treaty. We shall oppose this unfair application of payment schemes in the transposition of these EU laws into EU member state legislation. They are falsely called "compensation schemes" because there is no economic loss to be compensated and governments never have shown any substantial damage done to publishers by accessible formatted works.

The EBU will work hard to make sure the Directive and Regulation approved today means an important movement toward ending the “book famine” that deprives visually-impaired persons  access to the majority of  reading material that is published. This legislation is specially relevant because it is in the EU (along with the USA) where the majority of accessible formats exist in major languages. This legislation along with the Marrakesh Treaty will mean greater access to education, culture and social integration for  millions of visually impaired persons in Europe and around the world.

 

The next crucial step is for the European Parliament and the Council to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty and to deposit this ratification in Geneva at the World Intellectual Property Organization.  We call upon this to be done with no further delay.

David Hammerstein, Marrakesh Treaty Advocate for EBU

The current situation

16/10/2017 - Under the Estonian Presidency an agreement on the legal framework for EU ratification was reached last Friday, September 22nd by the Council Working Group on Copyright closely following the terms of the European Court opinion that established exclusive EU  to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty.  There is no text available yet but we have been told there are no controversial issues involved nor any reference to the WIPO Marrakesh Assembly.  This agreement has now been sent to be translated which will take 3 weeks and then it needs to be first approved by EU member state ambassadors and afterwards by ministers in the Council. Once the Council has approved it,  the Plenary of the European Parliament will ratify the agreement.

This process will probably take two or three months. Nevertheless, EU ratification will not  become effective until it  is deposited at the World intellectual Property Organization which will not take place until mid 2018 when it has been implemented into EU member state laws.

Next Steps

The focus now shifts to EU member states that need to integrate the new EU legislation, Directive and Regulation, into their national copyright laws before September 2018.  https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/implementation-marrak... Here the key decision that needs to be made is whether or not each individual EU member states will include the optional “compensation right” or “tax on accessible works” for rightsholders and publishers. We hope not!

To date 31 countries have deposited their ratification of the Treaty. Next week in Geneva at WIPO the “Marrakesh Assembly” will take place that monitors the application, extension and impact of the Treaty around the world.

More information

Further reading :

EBU published an FAQ about the Marrakech Treaty in their newsletter of September 2017

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled

United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights 
Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 27 (i) : Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

The same principles are echoed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Article 30.3 of the UN International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities  refers specifically to copyright, while the broader issue of access to information crops up in several places.

The World Blind Union has published a Guide to the Marrakesh Treaty:

Facilitating Access to Books for Print-Disabled Individuals, intended to help governments of ratifying countries as they face a variety of legal and policy choices when deciding how to incorporate the Marrakesh Treaty into their national legal systems. It is available as a word document in English, Spanish, French and Russian

They have now also a pocket guide to the treaty in English, French and Spanish

Press releases and position papers

11 May 2017, The European Blind Union celebrates agreement on Marrakesh Treaty legislation, regrets optional “tax on accessible books” - Press Release in English, pdf version, .doc version  and Spanish pdf version, word version  and Hungarian pdf version

29 September 2016, The Marrakech Treaty comes into force – but not for EU citizens! - Press release in English

The campaign in the news

·  A “tax on accessible books”: mixed emotions at Marrakesh Treaty progress Article on the E-Access Bulletin site, 25/05/2017

·  Europe reforms its Copyright  
EU Marrakech Treaty article on the lexology.com site, 30/05/2017

·  Access Treaty for Visually Impaired Readers (Finally) Steps Forward On EU Ratification  
Marrakesh treaty ratification article on the intellectual property watch website, 11/05/2017

·  Plans to adapt more books for blind people backed by Legal Affairs Committee  
Marrakesh treaty article on EU News website, 23/03/2017

·  EU Adoption Of Marrakesh Treaty For Blind Readers Imminent After Years Of Delay?  
Article on Intellectual Property Watch website, 01/02/2017