Update from WBU regarding the Marrakesh Treaty

There is a great deal going on in the world with respect to the Marrakesh Treaty, and exciting events loom near. First of all, members of the EBU are certainly well aware that the European Union and its 28 member states are well on track to ratify the Treaty, and that should occur by October of this year.

The other major news comes from the United States where ratification also appears imminent. Ratification in the U.S. requires a two-thirds vote from the United States Senate. In April, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Marrakesh Treaty where an Assistant Secretary of State from the Trump Administration along with representatives from key stakeholders testified. WBU’ Scott LaBarre spoke on behalf of the blind and print disabled of the United States. All Senators present spoke favorably of the Treaty and pledged their support. It should also be noted that the Trump Administration stated at the hearing that it fully supports the Treaty.

In the U.S., treaties are not self-executing and thus it is necessary to amend the U.S. copyright law to conform with Marrakesh. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee along with Ranking Member Senator Dianne Feinstein from California introduced S. 2559 which will bring U.S. law into full compliance with the Marrakesh Treaty.
By the end of May, Senate Judiciary favorably adopted S. 2559 on a 20 to 0 vote, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously voted to approve ratification of the Treaty itself. These two measures are headed to the Senate Floor, and we are informed that they will be adopted before the end of June. The implementation bill, S. 2559, will also need to be passed by the House of Representatives, and we also expect such approval yet this summer.

If ratification by the U.S. and EU occur as anticipated, the effect will be enormous. Millions of accessible titles will be available in dozens of languages to the blind, visually impaired, and print disabled of the world. This is the true miracle of Marrakesh.

WBU continues to participate in the Accessible Books Consortium sponsored by the World Intellectual Property Organization. ABC has now served over 200,000 blind and visually impaired persons through its Global Book Service, and 35 authorized entities are participating in the service. This will expand dramatically when the U.S. and EU ratify and implement the Treaty. ABC is conducting Capacity building projects in eleven countries and creating thousands of new accessible books to populations of blind and print disabled persons who have been underserved. The Consortium is also promoting inclusive publishing through its International Excellence Award and its Accessible Publishing Charter. ABC has strongly supported adoption of the Treaty through its participation in 23 conferences over the last year. Internally, WIPO is supporting a goal of 100 ratifications by the end of next year.

The Marrakesh Treaty is much more than a copyright treaty. It declares boldly that the blind, visually impaired, and otherwise print disabled have a right to access information. Realization of this right leads to true literacy which further translates into meaningful education and competitive employment. We are changing the world for the better with the Marrakesh Treaty!

By Scott LaBarre, Chair
Right to Read Campaign, WBU