New legislation being implemented across the European Union should help to end the ‘book famine’ of accessible versions of printed works, unless enactment is encumbered by the optional introduction in the UK of unnecessary and restrictive compensation requirements.
What is the Marrakesh Treaty?
Only around 7% of published books are globally available in accessible formats (such as Braille or audio), due in part to copyright restrictions. Member states of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) adopted the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled in 2013 to help tackle this shortcoming.
The Marrakesh Treaty is a big step forwards in terms of making accessible copies of printed works available.
First, the Treaty requires ratifying states to provide legislative copyright exceptions to permit people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled, as well as certain organisations such as libraries, to make accessible format copies without having to ask permission from the copyright holder.
Second, the Treaty requires that states make it legal to transfer accessible copies between Treaty states, ensuring that national borders do not act as barriers to the otherwise lawful use of accessible copies.
When and how will the Treaty come into force in the EU / UK?
The EU is a signatory to the Treaty, which means it is being implemented in EU Member States through EU legislation.
In transposing the EU legislation, the UK and other Member States have no option in terms of the requirements of the Treaty. In other words, Member States will need to have legislation in place to comply with the Treaty’s requirements set out above by October 2018.
However, the EU legislation allows for an optional provision, which, if implemented in the UK, could significantly weaken the aims of the Treaty and impose undue costs on libraries and other ‘authorised entities’ that make legitimate accessible copies for people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.
Article 3(6) of the EU implementing Directive (Marrakesh Directive (EU) 2017/1564) allows Member States like the UK to elect to require libraries, charities, and other ‘authorised entities’ to pay compensation to rights holders when making accessible copies under the Treaty terms.
The need for the Treaty arose due to the limitations of copyright rules and the failure of the market to produce accessible copies. This market failure has disadvantaged people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled and is underlined by the current ‘book famine’. If enacted, the Article 3(6) provisions would significantly hamper the ability of organisations like libraries to create and make available accessible copies as the Treaty intends. Compensation requirements would force ‘authorised entities’ to ‘double pay’ for works (once for the original copy and again for the accessible copy), on top of bearing the costs associated with producing the accessible copy.
What does the library community need to do?
Because this provision is optional, we have the opportunity to argue strongly against its introduction in the UK.
To do so, clear evidence is required. We need your data to help underline and demonstrate the lack of a viable market in accessible copies.
To help, we need a relevant person from your organisation to complete this short survey about accessible copies made for your users. If you want to look through the survey questions before you complete the survey online, you can download them from the bottom of this page.
The data required is mostly numerical, but there is plenty of scope for expanding on answers and providing examples. Please provide stories wherever possible – these bring yours and your users’ experiences to life. For the purpose of this survey, ‘accessible copy’ is the same as the definition for ‘accessible format copy’ in Article 2(3) of the Marrakesh Directive (EU) 2017/1564 and ‘print-disabled’ is the same as the definition for ‘beneficiary person’ in Article 2(2) of that Directive.
Please share this request with colleagues from other libraries, universities, and charities. The more data that we can gather, the stronger the case can be made against a compensation scheme and in favour of implementation of the Treaty in a manner that helps users and reduces the ‘book famine’.
More information about the Treaty: IFLA and EBLIDA have prepared a short guide on the Treaty and how its implementation in the EU will affect libraries.