India becomes the first country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled on 30th June, 2014. So far, 79 WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) member states have signed this Treaty. The Marrakesh treaty will come into force once twenty countries ratify this treaty.
The main goal of Marrakesh Treaty is to create a set of mandatory limitations and exceptions for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired and otherwise print disabled (VIPs). It addresses the “book famine” by requiring its contracting parties to adopt national law provisions that permit the reproduction, distribution and making available of published works in accessible formats – such as Braille – to VIPs and to permit exchange of these works across borders by organizations that serve those beneficiaries.
Once the Marrakesh Treaty comes into force, it will facilitate access to published works for the millions of blind, visually impaired and otherwise print disabled persons in India. It would go a long way in establishing equal rights and opportunities for education and employment for them.
Maryanne Diamond, the Immediate Past President of the World Blind Union (“WBU”) congratulated India on its ratification. Calling it a country who showed “huge leadership” in negotiations of the Marrakesh Treaty, Ms. Diamond said that this ratification was extremely significant, with India being home to a large number of blind and print disabled people and a part of the Global South.
Very simply, it allows the waiver of copyright restrictions in order for books to be available in formats such as formats such as Braille, large print text and audio books.
Pranesh Prakash of the Centre for Internet and Society, in his closing remarks said: “It is historic that today WIPO and its members have collectively recognised in a treaty that copyright isn’t just an ‘engine of free expression’ but can pose a significant barrier to access to knowledge.”
The treaty also provides assurances to authors and publishers that that system will not expose their published works to misuse or distribution to anyone other than the intended beneficiaries.
There are an estimated 285 million blind and partially-sighted people in the world, of which the largest percentage lives in India. Only 1 to 7 per cent of all books published are available in formats accessible to them.