Brussels, 21 October 2014
European Commission proposes ratification of Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to books for visually impaired persons
The Commission has today proposed the ratification, on behalf of the European Union, of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled. The Treaty will ensure that books in formats such as Braille, large print, e-books and audio books with special navigation tools, produced under copyright exceptions, can be exchanged across borders, not only within the EU but also between the EU and third countries.
Michel Barnier, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Internal Market and Services, said "The Marrakesh Treaty will simplify the lives of millions of visually impaired people around the world. The EU can help to improve access to books with equal conditions for all and contribute to the fight against the book famine. The Commission’s proposal is a signal that Europe is ready to support the rapid entry into force of this important Treaty. I count on the Council and the European Parliament to authorise the ratification as soon as possible."
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired: 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision.
The World Blind Union reports that in Europe only 5% of published books are available in an accessible format for visually impaired persons, while in developing countries this rate is as low as 1%.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is the United Nations agency responsible for intellectual property (patents, copyright, trademarks, designs, etc.). Between 17 and 28 June 2013, WIPO held a Diplomatic Conference in Marrakesh to conclude a Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. The Treaty creates mandatory exceptions to copyright that allow organisations for blind people to produce, distribute and make available accessible format copies to visually impaired persons without the authorisation of the right holder. It also allows, under certain conditions, for the cross-border exchange of these copies.
The Treaty was adopted on 27 June 2013 (IP/13/624 and MEMO/13/627). The EU, authorised by the Council, signed the Treaty on 30 April 2014 in Geneva. Besides the EU, 79 WIPO Member States have signed the Treaty.
On the basis of the Commission’s proposal, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, it is for the Council to authorise the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty by the European Union. The Marrakesh Treaty will enter into force after its ratification by twenty WIPO Member States - so far, two have ratified it (India and El Salvador).
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