[nabs-l] Cross-Border Sharing of Books for Disabled Users SurvivesResistance From

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Sun Jun 7 20:32:06 UTC 2009



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Sarah Alawami" <marrie12 at gmail.com>
To: "'National Association of Blind Students mailing list'" 
<nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Sunday, June 07, 2009 3:42 PM
Subject: [nabs-l] Cross-Border Sharing of Books for Disabled Users 
SurvivesResistance From

>  Cross-Border Sharing of Books for Disabled Users Survives Resistance From
>  the EU and US
>  Copyright treaty backing e-books for disabled readers survives US and EU
>  resistance
>  Copyright treaty backing e-books for disabled readers survives US and EU
>  resistance
>  OUT-LAW News, 03/06/2009
>  A proposed treaty that would change copyright laws to allow the supply of
>  books across borders for the benefit of blind people has survived
>  resistance
>  from the US, UK, France, Germany and other countries.
>  A committee of the World Intellectual Property Organisation agreed on
>  Friday
>  "to continue without delay" its work on "facilitating the access of 
> blind,
>  visually-impaired and other reading-disabled persons to
>  copyright-protected
>  works."
>  At the heart of this work is a treaty proposed by the charitable
>  organisation World Blind Union (WBU) and written with the help of the 
> UK's
>  Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) .
>  RNIB campaign manager Dan Pescod attended the five-day meeting in Geneva.
>  Pescod told OUT-LAW today that the UK and the US were among a group of
>  countries that did not support the treaty and preferred 'soft options',
>  though they stopped short of formally opposing it.
>  Around 95% of books are never published in any format other than standard
>  print, according to the WBU. But visually impaired people need books in
>  other formats, such as large print, Braille and audio. People with other
>  disabilities, such as cognitive impairments, can also find themselves
>  'print
>  disabled'.
>  "Imagine if you walked into a bookshop or library, and were told that you
>  were only allowed to choose from five percent of the books on the shelf,"
>  said WBU president Dr William Rowland in a speech last year. "What would
>  such a limited choice do to your education, to your leisure reading
>  opportunities?"
>  The WBU, RNIB and others have prepared a draft treaty that would relax
>  copyright restrictions to allow the creation and supply of accessible
>  books
>  without the need for prior permission from the copyright owner. The 
> treaty
>  requires this generally to be done on a non-profit basis.
>  In some countries, it is already legal to create accessible books without
>  permission. It was made legal in the UK by the Copyright (Visually
>  Impaired
>  Persons) Act, passed in 2002. But that law is limited in scope. The 
> rights
>  are limited to visually-impaired persons - so while a person with 
> dyslexia
>  might benefit from a large-print book, or an electronic book which can be
>  played using text-to-speech conversion software, the law does not
>  facilitate
>  that person.
>  Also, the UK law, like equivalent laws in other countries, does not allow
>  the supply of a digital book to a customer overseas.
>  The WBU treaty, if signed and ratified in its present form, would lift
>  these
>  restrictions. It seeks to protect all 'reading disabled' persons and it
>  allows the supply across borders of accessible works, as a Braille hard
>  copy
>  or as an e-book. At present, a tiny fraction of books that are available
>  in
>  accessible formats can be supplied across borders because their export
>  requires the agreement of rights holders.
>  Pescod said publishers have until recently seen little money to be made
>  from
>  converting books into accessible formats, meaning that the work is
>  normally
>  done by voluntary organisations like RNIB.
>  "If we make an accessible version of a book in the UK and want to send
>  that
>  to another English-speaking country where they don't have the resources 
> to
>  make books accessible, we should be able to do that," he said. "But the
>  copyright law as it stands doesn't allow the transfer of that accessible
>  info. The exceptions in place in national legislations stop at the
>  border."
>  The preamble to the treaty notes that "90 percent of visually-impaired
>  persons live in countries of low or moderate incomes." These countries
>  tend
>  to have the most limited ranges of accessible works, hence the need for a
>  right to supply across borders.
>  Pescod said that voluntary organisations in Chile, Columbia, Mexico,
>  Nicaragua and Uruguay have only 8,517 books in alternative formats 
> between
>  them. However, Argentina has 63,000 books and Spain 102,000. All these
>  countries speak Spanish. . Spain and Argentina will not share their
>  libraries with their Latin American colleagues, though, for fear of
>  breaking
>  copyright laws, he said.
>  The proposed treaty would also allow for the circumvention of digital
>  rights
>  management (DRM) where necessary to render a work accessible. Some books
>  are
>  published in a digital format that is not compatible with the assistive
>  technologies used by disabled people.
>  Lobbying for legislative change in the UK, the RNIB noted recently that
>  DRM
>  schemes "can react to assistive technology as if it were an illicit
>  operation." It also said that "while e-book readers may have the facility
>  to
>  reproduce synthetic speech, the rights holder can apply a level of
>  security
>  which prevents this from working."
>  The WBU treaty would allow a company to buy an e-book, hack the DRM and
>  redistribute a DRM-free version of the work, provided copies are supplied
>  exclusively for disabled customers.
>  Pescod said that main objective of RNIB and the WBU for the week was to
>  have
>  the treaty formally proposed within the WIPO committee. Their second
>  objective was to have it accepted as a viable proposal. "These were met,"
>  he
>  said. "Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay tabled the treaty as a proposal."
>  That put the treaty before WIPO's Standing Committee on Copyright and
>  Related Rights. It was strongly supported by delegates representing South
>  American, African and Asian countries. "India and China were particularly
>  supportive," said Pescod. Wealthier countries, it seems, were less
>  enthusiastic.
>  "Many publishers and rights holders and some states say we need a 'soft'
>  solution," said Pescod. "RNIB should work with rights holders and others
>  to
>  resolve this, they say."
>  Pescod said these groups want a 'stakeholder platform' to discuss the
>  sharing of files, but not a treaty. "We're more than happy to speak," he
>  said. "But where we part company is that the stakeholder platform is
>  looking
>  at one set of solutions only." It would address some technical 
> challenges,
>  he said; but it would not address other issues, including the production
>  of
>  unprofitable Braille works, or the extra work needed to describe images.
>  "We're insisting that you need to work with rights holders - and we'll
>  continue to do that - but we still need a treaty which would do three
>  things: encourage national copyright exceptions for disabled people in 
> all
>  countries; allow transfer of accessible books in all countries; and allow
>  tightening of rules on DRM systems that can block accessibility."
>  "No country opposed the proposal [for a treaty] outright," said Pescod.
>  "Those who wanted to suggest that they weren't happy with it used more
>  coded
>  language, like saying discussions were 'premature' or that they wanted to
>  take it back home and discuss it [at a national level]."
>  The published conclusions of the committee include the unattributed
>  objection "that deliberations regarding any instrument would be
>  premature."
>  "Those attacking this [treaty] fear it is going to undermine copyright
>  law,"
>  he said. "We disagree completely. Ensuring access for a bunch of people
>  who
>  the market was not selling to in the first place doesn't undermine
>  copyright
>  law."
>  "This whole idea that it's 'premature' is bizarre," he said. "A WIPO and
>  UNESCO working group looked at this in 1982. If that's premature, at what
>  point does it become mature and ready to go?"
>  Pescod said that support for the stakeholder platform instead of a treaty
>  is
>  coming only from those who are not disabled. "They're not blind and they
>  know better? I would question that," he said.
>  The UK was represented in two capacities: as a member of the European
>  Union
>  and as a member of the so-called 'Group B' countries, a WIPO term that
>  refers to 17 EU member states, the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, New
>  Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the Vatican. Neither the EU nor Group B
>  representatives supported the proposal. "Both are sceptical," said 
> Pescod.
>  According to another meeting attendee, James Love of Knowledge Ecology
>  International, a group that promotes access to knowledge, the opposition
>  from the US and other high-income countries "is due to intense lobbying
>  from
>  a large group of publishers that oppose a 'paradigm shift', where 
> treaties
>  would protect consumer interests, rather than expand rights for copyright
>  owners."
>  Ville Oksanen, a member of European digital rights group EDRi said Group 
> B
>  and the EU "did their best to derail the process of getting the treaty
>  under
>  serious consideration." He described the given reasons as "rather
>  perplexing" and described them as excuses designed to avoid being seen as
>  opposing help for disabled people.
>  "It remains to be seen how sceptical they will be next time," said 
> Pescod.
>  "At the end of the day, though, we are happy with the way things went."
>  On Friday night the WIPO copyright committee reached agreement to discuss
>  the treaty at its next meeting in November, in spite of the objections. 
> In
>  the meantime, the committee's conclusions note that "Member States will
>  continue to consult on these issues at national level and report on the
>  activities and views on possible solutions."
>  James Love is confident that the treaty will make progress.
>  "Group B came in the May [copyright committee] meeting to block any
>  agreement to discuss a treaty," he told OUT-LAW. "We'll be back in
>  November,
>  discussing a treaty. The members of Group B will not be able to
>  consistently
>  avoid dealing with the treaty proposal. They will have to say yes or no 
> in
>  terms of moving this forward, and to explain why."
>  "The core issue will be, what will it take to liberalize the cross-border
>  movement of accessible works created under copyright limitations and
>  exceptions?" said Love. "Given how harsh the access reality is for people
>  who are blind or have other reading disabilities, Group B cannot long
>  avoid
>  addressing this topic. There will be more and more data, and fewer and
>  fewer
>  chances to claim strategic ignorance." <
>  http://www.out-law.com/page-10059
> Sarah Alawami
> msn: chellist at hotmail.com
> website: http://www.marrie.org
> twitter: http://twitter.com/marrie1
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