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Slowgoing Progress

Magazine article Information Today

Slowgoing Progress

Article excerpt

More than a year after the Marrakesh Treaty was signed by more than 50 countries, it is stuck in the slow lane as just one has ratified it. The treaty, formulated by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), is meant to spur signatory countries to make printed works accessible for blind people. The World Blind Union (WBU), a major supporter of the treaty's aims, claims that more than 90% of published materials cannot be read by blind or print-disabled people.

In brief, signatories to the treaty pledge to make it easier for print works to be reproduced into accessible formats for blind and low-vision readers by easing copyright restrictions. They also pledge to allow cross-border sharing of these works. However, unless the treaty is ratified by at least 20 signatories, it cannot come into effect.

Ratification Delay

According to the WBU, only India has ratified the treaty. It is calling on interested parties in the 79 countries that have since signed the treaty to put pressure on politicians and members of legislatures to demand that they ratify the treaty.

Maryanne Diamond, chair of WBU's Right to Read Committee, says, "We are aware of another few countries that have had government approval to ratify or [are] close to [that], but as yet have not lodged the paperwork with WIPO. Our understanding is there is general support by governments to ratify, however, it does not appear to be at the top of the priority list for parliaments or decision makers."

Diamond says that the WBU has a worldwide ratification campaign underway and has identified 40 "priority" countries to work with during the first 2 years. "There is a great deal of work taking place. Copyright law is complex and not something most grass roots members understand or who and where in their government to lobby" she says.

Meanwhile, WIPO recently announced the launch of the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC), which it believes will help make the Marrakesh Treaty effective at a practical level. The consortium will, says WIPO, promote, especially in less developed countries, the technical skills needed to produce and distribute books in formats accessible to blind and visually impaired people.

In a statement, WIPO director general Francis Gurry says the ABC launch "advances global efforts to increase the number of books available for use by people with print disabilities."

Patience for Copyright Reform

Meanwhile, library bodies that are pressing for copyright reform through the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) are forced to play a patient game. They will now have to wait for SCCR's December meeting to push for copyright exceptions for libraries and archives.

The last SCCR meeting, held in Geneva in July, proved inconclusive as far as discussions on copyright exceptions were concerned. According to a statement by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), SCCR member states "agreed to disagree" on copyright exceptions. This could go on and on.

Practical TDM

European library bodies are trying to persuade major academic and scientific publisher Elsevier to amend its text and data mining (TDM) policy. LIBER (Association of European Research Libraries) says Elsevier's current TDM policy places "unnecessary restrictions on researchers. It limits their ability, and their right, to mine content to which they have legal access."

In an open letter to Michiel Kolman, Elsevier's SVP for global academic relations, LIBER, 32 library and research organizations, and eight academic professionals called on Elsevier to withdraw its TDM policy, which they criticize on various grounds; for example, that it's limited to text and doesn't include images. …

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