Thursday, June 04, 2009

WIPO to Consider Radical Changes To Support the Visually Impaired

A committee of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has agreed on "facilitating the access of blind, visually-impaired and other reading-disabled persons to copyright-protected works." A proposed t would effectively change copyright laws to allow the supply of books across borders for the benefit of blind people.

According to the World Blind Union (WBU) around 95% of books are estimated to be never published in any format other than standard print. So rendering many 'print disabled'. The new draft treaty would effectively relax copyright restrictions and allow the creation and supply of accessible books without the need for prior permission from the copyright owner on a non-profit basis. Since 2002 the UK Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act, has made this legal in the UK. However the law is limited to visually-impaired persons and does not allow the supply of a digital book to a customer overseas.

The treaty, if signed and ratified would protect all 'reading disabled' persons and it allows the supply across borders of accessible works, as a Braille hard copy or as an e-book. This would enable an accessible version of a book in the UK available to send that to another English-speaking country where they don't have the resources to make books accessible.

Provided copies are supplied exclusively for disabled customers the proposed treaty would also allow for the circumvention of digital rights management (DRM). The WIPO copyright committee has agreed to discuss the treaty at its next meeting in November and its supporters are confident it will make progress

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