[Ohio-talk] International copyright concerns for blind readers

Barbara Pierce bbpierce at pobox.com
Fri May 29 19:32:41 UTC 2009

Here is a message that I just received. It is one more issue of grave

I am circulating a lengthy post regarding efforts to limit an international
treaty that would allow for rules that parallel existing domestic exceptions
to the copyright law for blind people to govern in an international context.
Please help bring pressure on authorities by letting President Obama know
that these provisions would be useful, and ask him to direct his
representatives to abandon their hostile posture toward aspects of the
treaty that would be helpful. You may Email your concerns to:
President at whitehouse.gov
The post follows:
Right now, in Geneva, at the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization,
history is being made. For the first time in WIPO history, the body that
creates the world's copyright treaties is attempting to write a copyright
treaty dedicated to protecting the interests of copyright users, not just
copyright owners.

At issue is a treaty to protect the rights of blind people and people with
other disabilities that affect reading (people with dyslexia, people who are
paralyzed or lack arms or hands for turning pages). This should be a slam
dunk: who wouldn't want a harmonized system of copyright exceptions that
ensure that it's possible for disabled people to get access to the written

The USA, that's who. The Obama administration'

s negotiators have joined with a rogue's gallery of rich country trade
representatives to oppose protection for blind people. Other nations and
regions opposing the rights of blind people include Canada and the EU.

Update: Also opposing rights for disabled people: Australia, New Zealand,
the Vatican and Norway.

Activists at WIPO are desperate to get the word out. They're tweeting madly
from the negotiation (technically called the 18th session of the Standing
Committee on Copyright and Related Rights) publishing editorials on the
Huffington Post, etc.

Here's where you come in: this has to get wide exposure, to get cast as
broadly as possible, so that it will find its way into the ears of the
obscure power-brokers who control national trade-negotiators.

I don't often ask readers to do things like this, but please, forward this
post to people you know in the US, Canada and the EU, and ask them to
reblog, tweet, and spread the word, especially to government officials and
activists who work on disabled rights. We know that WIPO negotiations can be
overwhelmed by citizen activists -- that's how we killed the Broadcast
Treaty negotiation a few years back -- and with your help, we can make
history, and create a world where copyright law protects the public

I am attending a meeting in Geneva of the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO). This evening the United States government, in
combination with other high income countries in "Group B" is seeking to
block an agreement to discuss a treaty for persons who are blind or have
other reading disabilities.

The proposal for a treaty is supported by a large number of civil society
NGOs, the World Blind Union, the National Federation of the Blind in the US,
the International DAISY Consortium, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic
(RFB&D), Bookshare.Org, and groups representing persons with reading
disabilities all around the world.

The main aim of the treaty is to allow the cross-border import and export of
digital copies of books and other copyrighted works in formats that are
accessible to persons who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or have
other reading disabilities, using special devices that present text as
refreshable Braille, computer generated text to speech, or large type. These
works, which are expensive to make, are typically created under national
exceptions to copyright law that are specifically written to benefit persons
with disabilities.


The opposition from the United States and other high income countries is due
to intense lobbying from a large group of publishers that oppose a "paradigm

where treaties would protect consumer interests, rather than expand rights
for copyright owners.

The Obama Administration was lobbied heavily on this issue, including
meetings with high level White House officials. Assurances coming into the
negotiations this week that things were going in the right direction have
turned out to be false, as the United States delegation has basically read
from a script written by lobbyists for publishers, extolling the virtues of
market based solutions, ignoring mountains of evidence of a "book famine"
and the insane legal barriers to share works.

Obama Joins Group to Block Treaty for Blind and Other Reading Disabilities


With Kind Regards,


Daniel B. Frye, J.D.
Associate Editor
The Braille Monitor
National Federation of the Blind
Office of the President
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Telephone: (410) 659-9314 Ext. 2208
Mobile: (410) 241-7006
Fax: (410) 685-5653
Email: DFrye at nfb.org
Web Address: www.nfb.org <http://www.nfb.org/> "Voice of the Nation's Blind"

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