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

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 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

Agreement on the legal framework for EU ratification reached (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.

The current situation

European Union votes to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty (23/01/2018)

EBU is delighted by the European Union's vote in favour of the procedure enabling ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty.  597 members of the European Parliament out of 627 voted in favour on January 18, while only 8 members voted against and 25 abstained.

This procedure allows the Council to fulfil the ratification and later deposit the Treaty in Geneva at WIPO, an important step that completes the already approved implementation of the exception within the legislative acquis of the Union, Thanks to this legislation, the adaptation and cross-border exchange of copyrighted books will be assured for non-profit uses to serve blind and visually-impaired people.

"I am extremely happy that the European Parliament has finally voted in favour of the decision that allows EU to ratify Marrakesh Treaty," said Ms. Barbara Martín Munoz , a key member of the WBU and EBU Marrakesh Implementation and Ratification Campaign Committee.

"Now we will have to wait for the deposit of the instrument at WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) to see EU in the list of ratifications, and from that moment three more months to apply it! I do hope that happens by the end of 2018," said Ms. Martín Munoz .

Over 90% of all published materials cannot be read by blind or print-disabled people, leading to a "book famine." Current copyright rules within most countries prevent the ability to reproduce published materials into accessible formats, such as Braille, large print, and audio editions. Working with WIPO, the WBU led the international campaign to develop the Marrakesh Treaty that would facilitate Access to Published Works by people with print disabilities. The Marrakesh Treaty signed in Morocco on 28 June 2013, is a legally binding international agreement that creates mandatory exceptions to national copyright law to protect the human rights of individuals with print disabilities.  To date, 33 countries have ratified the Treaty. An addition of 25 EU countries will be a milestone achievement for EBU in it's effort to enhance the human rights of print-disabled people.

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 35 countries have deposited their ratification of the Treaty. Soon, 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

The campaign at National Level:

On 27th April in Sofia, Digital Republic - a Bulgarian Non-Governmental Organization (www.digrep.bg) in collaboration with National Library of Bulgaria and University of Library Studies and IT (UniBIT) will have an event regarding the Marrakesh Treaty, this is the presentation by Bárbara Martín of EBU.

Further reading :

Press releases and position papers:

The campaign in the news: