Questions and answers on the Marrakesh Treaty

Why is the Marrakesh Treaty a historic international agreement?

For the first time, international human rights law, in particular the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is part of the basis of an international copyright Treaty under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It creates a legally binding international instrument to establish an exception to global copyright law. 

Why is it called the Marrakesh Treaty?

An agreement on the treaty text was reached in June, 2013 in Marrakesh. Hence the name: Marrakesh Treaty

Why do we need the Marrakesh Treaty? 

Blind and visually-impaired persons only have access to less than 5% of the books published every year because accessible versions of most books are not produced due to a lack of interest by publishers. In most countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia millions of print-disabled persons have very limited access to reading material.  Moreover, the books that are made in accessible formats, usually by libraries and blind-persons organizations, cannot be shared across national borders because national copyright law does not allow these copies to be distributed internationally. Copyright law has been a barrier to access to reading material for visually-impaired persons. 

Was it easy to get the Marrakesh Treaty?

Absolutely not. Thousands of visually impaired persons, librarians and NGOs worked for over a decade to get a legally binding international treaty. Without years of tough campaigning we would not have a treaty. 

Who opposed the Treaty?

International publishers and other lobbies such as the Motion Picture Industry opposed the treaty for years almost down to the final days of negotiations in Marrakesh.   The EU and the US were also against a legally binding treaty for many years as they preferred a voluntary agreement or “soft law” or recommendations. 

What is the Marrakesh Treaty - what does it do, what does it allow, and what will happen? 

Under the Marrakesh Treaty sharing accessible books around the world becomes legal and is facilitated.  Accessible books in Spain can be shared with Spanish-speaking Latin-American visually-impaired speakers. Texts in the UK will be available for English-speakers in India, South Africa, the US and the rest of the world. 

This will help the educational, social and economic opportunities of visually-impaired persons. 

How does the Treaty change copyright?

The cross-border exchange of copyrighted books will now be legal without the permission of rightsholders for non-profit uses to serve the visually-impaired persons. It allows persons who cannot read a convention printed book to share accessible formats such as digital, audio, DAISY, braille without the permission of rightsholders of the copyright. This is a mandatory exception to copyright that allows works to move freely around the world under the responsibility of trusted intermediaries such as blind persons organizations and libraries. 

What countries can apply the Marrakesh Treaty?

All the countries that have ratified the Treaty can apply it and must apply it. The Treaty entered into force in September, 2016 and all the countries that have ratified the Treaty can apply the Treaty. Today over 30 countries have ratified and many more will probably do so over the next year, including the 27 countries of the European Union as a block. Here it is possible to consult the countries that have ratified already:

What is the EU´s legislation concerning the Marrakesh Treaty?  

There was a political agreement in May of 2017 which opens the door for the EU ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty which is very positive. At the same time it is regrettable that it allows EU member states to impose a “tax on accessible books” or a “compensation right” to be paid to rightsholders.   

Why is EU ratification so important?

 It means an important step toward ending the “book famine” that deprives visually-impaired persons access to most reading material that is published because it is in the EU, along with the US, where the majority of accessible formats exist in major languages. The EU ratification will most surely take place in autumn of 2017. This ratification will only go into effect internationally when the EU deposits the ratification at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva.

Who can distribute and receive books under the Treaty?

Any organization or institution that has among its competences the service of visually-impaired people can take advantage of the Marrakesh Treaty and distribute books to their members or to any individual inside or outside their territory of operations. This means, for example, a French text can be sent to a French-speaking person in Africa and an accessible formatted work can be sent from Spain to Latin-America. The only pre-requisite is that both countries must have ratified the Treaty. 

When will the US ratify?

There is an agreement already on a text for ratification in the US Senate and it is foreseeable that US ratification will place by 2018.

Who oversees and controls the correct application of the Marrakesh Treaty?

The WIPO “Marrakesh Treaty Assembly” was founded in October 2016 and meets annually at WIPO in Geneva to oversee and monitor the fulfilment of the objectives of the Treaty. 

Where can I find more detailed information about the Marrakesh Treaty in my language?

The World Blind Union has published a very complete guide in many languages: