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European Commission


Brussels, 26 July 2012

Intellectual Property: Commissioner Michel Barnier determined to ensure equal access to books for visually impaired persons

Welcoming the outcome of the negotiations concluded last night at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to facilitate access to books by visually impaired persons, Commissioner Barnier stated: "Our objective is to ensure that visually impaired people can access books as easily as other people. This means making books accessible to them at the same time and at the same price”.

The Commissioner in charge of the Internal Market added: "I am fully committed to fighting against the unjustified discrimination of visually impaired people but the Commission cannot effectively defend such an approach without a negotiating mandate to do so from the Council of Member State Governments. The Commission has requested such a mandate at my initiative and I will seize the opportunity of my political contacts with the EU Member States to plead in favour of a binding international treaty."

He continued: "I welcome the conclusions reached at WIPO last night and the clear commitment of the parties to work towards an international treaty creating a copyright exception for the benefit of the visually impaired. I urge all parties to negotiate rapidly so that a Diplomatic Conference can be convened in 2013."


The European Union actively participated in the discussions at the 24th session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights between 16 and 25 July.

The Commission is in favour of a copyright exception for the benefit of visually impaired people and asked for a mandate from the Member States to negotiate a binding international treaty on 8 June 2012. It is now for the Council to decide on the Commission's request. As long as the Commission does not have a negotiating mandate from the Council, it cannot commit to a text.

According to the figures provided by the World Blind Union, only 5% of published books are available in special formats today. The objective of the EU, along with the World Blind Union, is to increase this figure to 100%

The European Union is supportive of all forms of accessible format copies (such as Braille, audio) of books for visually impaired people and has not proposed any restriction in this respect.

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