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

Rob Lambert rmlambert1987 at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 7 20:52:01 UTC 2009

Thanks for posting this. :) This is nice :) So, essentailly, we can get books from accross the pond now, as well as being able to not worry so much about needing a publisher's permission. I think this could speed up textbook reproduction as well. 

--- On Sun, 6/7/09, Sarah Alawami <marrie12 at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Sarah Alawami <marrie12 at gmail.com>
Subject: [nabs-l] Cross-Border Sharing of Books for Disabled Users Survives Resistance From
To: "'National Association of Blind Students mailing list'" <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
Date: Sunday, June 7, 2009, 12:42 PM

  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
  Copyright treaty backing e-books for disabled readers survives US and EU
  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 
  from the US, UK, France, Germany and other countries.
  A committee of the World Intellectual Property Organisation agreed on 
  "to continue without delay" its work on "facilitating the access of blind,
  visually-impaired and other reading-disabled persons to 
  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 
  "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
  The WBU, RNIB and others have prepared a draft treaty that would relax
  copyright restrictions to allow the creation and supply of accessible 
  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 
  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 
  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 
  restrictions. It seeks to protect all 'reading disabled' persons and it
  allows the supply across borders of accessible works, as a Braille hard 
  or as an e-book. At present, a tiny fraction of books that are available 
  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 
  converting books into accessible formats, meaning that the work is 
  done by voluntary organisations like RNIB.
  "If we make an accessible version of a book in the UK and want to send 
  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 
  The preamble to the treaty notes that "90 percent of visually-impaired
  persons live in countries of low or moderate incomes." These countries 
  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 
  copyright laws, he said.
  The proposed treaty would also allow for the circumvention of digital 
  management (DRM) where necessary to render a work accessible. Some books 
  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 
  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 
  reproduce synthetic speech, the rights holder can apply a level of 
  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 
  the treaty formally proposed within the WIPO committee. Their second
  objective was to have it accepted as a viable proposal. "These were met," 
  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
  "Many publishers and rights holders and some states say we need a 'soft'
  solution," said Pescod. "RNIB should work with rights holders and others 
  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 
  at one set of solutions only." It would address some technical challenges,
  he said; but it would not address other issues, including the production 
  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 
  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 
  "Those attacking this [treaty] fear it is going to undermine copyright 
  he said. "We disagree completely. Ensuring access for a bunch of people 
  the market was not selling to in the first place doesn't undermine 
  "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 
  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 
  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 
  a large group of publishers that oppose a 'paradigm shift', where treaties
  would protect consumer interests, rather than expand rights for copyright
  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 
  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 
  discussing a treaty. The members of Group B will not be able to 
  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 
  addressing this topic. There will be more and more data, and fewer and 
  chances to claim strategic ignorance." <

Sarah Alawami
msn: chellist at hotmail.com
website: http://www.marrie.org
twitter: http://twitter.com/marrie1

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