Copyfail #2: EU’s failure to give blind people equal access to books

By EDRi · June 2, 2016

This article is the second one in the series presenting Copyfails.

The EU is reforming its copyright rules. We want to introduce to you the main failures of the current copyright system, with suggestions on how to fix them. You can find all the Copyfails here.

How has it failed?

Blind and visually impaired people only have access to up to 1-7% of books published worldwide. After lengthy negotiations at the international level, an agreement was reached to bring an end to this “book famine”. This agreement is the Marrakesh Treaty that seeks to facilitate access to cultural content for people who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled. It was signed by the EU on 30 April 2014, but not yet ratified, which means that it still is not law.

The Marrakesh Treaty makes mandatory for States to provide exceptions or limitations in their national legislation. This would permit reproduction, distribution and making available of published works in formats designed to be accessible to visually impaired people, and to permit exchange of these works across borders.


Why is this important?

Europe should be taking the lead in supporting blind and visually impaired people around the globe, ensuring they have equal access to books and ending the book famine.

While even North Korea has ratified the Marrakesh Treaty, the EU has not yet done so, despite the European Parliament and European Commission repeatedly pleading for this. Although former Vice-President of the European Commission said in 2014 that there were signs indicating that “Europe [was] ready to support the rapid entry into force of this important Treaty”, and urged the Council and the Parliament to “authorise the ratification as soon as possible”, we are still waiting for that to happen.

How to fix it?


Limitations and Exceptions: Access to Books for the Visually Impaired – Background Brief

Why books need to be made more accessible for visually impaired people (04.11.2015)

Marrakesh Treaty: EU must take action now

Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled adopted by the Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities in Marrakesh (27.06.2013)

European Commission proposes ratification of Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to books for visually impaired persons (21.10.2014)