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European Commission


Brussels, 27 June 2013

New Treaty to ensure equal access to books for visually impaired and print disabled persons – frequently asked questions

What is the Marrakesh Treaty?

It is a Treaty adopted in the context of the World Intellectual Property Organisation on 27 June 2013. It aims at facilitating access to books for visually impaired and print disabled persons. It creates a mandatory exception to copyright that allows organisations for the blind to produce, distribute and make available accessible format copies to visually impaired persons without the authorisation of the rightholder. It also allows for the exportation of the accessible formats, provided that certain conditions are met.

Why was the adoption of the Treaty necessary?

According to the World Blind Union, there are an estimated 285 million blind and partially sighted people worldwide and they can access only 5% of the books sighted people can read. This is the so-called “book famine”. The Marrakesh Treaty will make it possible to export accessible format copies to other Contracting States, hence increasing the availability of special formats all around the world.

Who are the beneficiaries of the Treaty?

The Treaty does not only cover blind and other visually impaired people but it also covers persons with perceptual and reading disabilities, such as dyslexia.

Which organisations can make accessible format copies under the Treaty?

The so-called “authorised entities” are entities authorised or recognised by governments to provide education, instructional training, adaptive reading or information access to beneficiary persons on a non-profit basis. Moreover, they can be government institutions or non-profit organisations that provide the same services to beneficiary persons as one of their primary activities or institutional obligations.

These entities have to comply with certain obligations, such as

  • establishing that the persons they serve are beneficiary persons;

  • limiting to beneficiary persons and/or authorised entities the distribution and making available of accessible format copies;

  • discouraging the reproduction, distribution and making available of unauthorised copies; and

  • maintaining due care in, and records of, its handling of accessible format copies.

What are the relevant provisions of the Treaty in a domestic situation?

The Treaty provides for a mandatory exception to the right of reproduction, the right of distribution and the right of making available in order to facilitate access to books for visually impaired and print disabled persons. For this purpose, an authorised entity can make accessible format copies and send them to beneficiaries. Also, a visually impaired person can make an accessible format copy for his or her own use.

The Treaty also explicitly recognises the right of Contracting States to determine whether these exceptions are subject to compensation and whether they only allow for the use of the exception where the special format copy of the relevant work is not commercially available.

What are the relevant provisions of the Treaty for the cross-border exchange?

Authorised entities can export accessible format copies made under a copyright exception to other authorised entities or directly to individuals in other Contracting States. The precondition is that they comply with the so-called three-step test, i.e. the distribution and making available is limited to certain special cases which do not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rightholder.

What are the possibilities of an importing country?

As regards imported accessible format copies, the Contracting Parties enjoy the freedom to determine the applicable conditions in their domestic market.

When will the Treaty enter into force?

The Treaty will enter into force once 20 Contracting States have ratified it.

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