News

Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty

28.6.2017

Here is official European Parliament information about the legislation to be voted next week. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/ATAG/2017/607274/EPRS_ATA(2017)607274_EN.pdf that quotes the EBU statement on the legislation.

The President of the European Blind Union Wolfgang Angermann will take part in a press conference in Strasbourg on Tuesday, July 4th at 2pm with MEP Max Andersson, the rapporteur of the Directive and the Regulation. MEP Andersson is also the rapporteur of the report on EU ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty that is expected in autumn 2017 once EU member states give it their approval. 

The aim of the Marrakesh Treaty is to facilitate access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.

In May 2016, the European Commission proposed a regulation and a directive to implement the treaty in the European Union. In March 2017, the JURI Committee proposed a series of amendments. Agreement was reached in interinstitutional trilogue negotiations in May 2017 and the text agreed is due to be voted on at the July plenary session.

Background

The EU signed the Marrakesh Treaty, adopted under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property

Organization (WIPO), in April 2014.

The treaty obliges the EU Member States to establish a set of mandatory limitations and exceptions to copyright protection for the benefit of people who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. It also allows for the cross-border exchange of special format copies of books, including Braille and audiobooks, among the countries that are parties to the treaty.

Commission proposals

In 2016, the European Commission presented a legislative package to modernize EU copyright rules, including a regulation and a directive to implement the Marrakesh Treaty into EU law.

The proposed directive establishes a mandatory and harmonised exception to copyright protection for the beneficiaries (i.e. blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print-disabled people) and authorised entities (e.g. blind persons' organisations and libraries).

It will be possible for copies of works made available in accessible formats (e.g. Braille, large print or audiobooks) in one Member State to be disseminated and accessed throughout the EU without prior permission from the rights-holders.

A separate proposed regulation governs the cross-border exchange of accessible format copies between the EU and third countries that are party to the Marrakesh Treaty.

Legal Affairs Committee report

The Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) adopted a report in March 2017 recommending the amendment of the Commission proposal on several points. It called, inter alia, for the inclusion of e-books in the definition of 'protected works', clarification of

the definition of 'beneficiary person' and 'authorised entity', the introduction of complaint or redress mechanisms, and the establishment of a single, publicly accessible online database containing information on the works available in accessible format copies. It also asked the Commission to assess whether other types of work and disability could benefit from the new rules in the future.

Outcome of trilogue negotiations Parliament and Council negotiators reached a final agreement on 19 May 2017. Many of the JURI committee's amendments were accepted. The proposed legislation introduces into EU law a new mandatory exception to the copyright protection applicable to books in 'digital format' as well. The Commission must present a report after two years, assessing whether the scope of the legislation should be broadened to address other types of work and people with other disabilities. Members States' discretion to establish limited compensation schemes (i.e. remuneration) for publishers when their books are turned into accessible formats was the subject of much debate.

The European Blind Union regrets that this provision was adopted contrary to the initial positions of the Parliament and the Commission, and has warned that this will oblige blind persons' organisations and libraries to pay economic compensation.

The approved text does however contain some safeguards limiting the possibilities for compensation and also guidelines regarding compensation levels