Library Copyright Alliance hails WIPO for landmark victory for the blind

(Washington, D.C. 26 June 2013)  The Library Copyright Alliance applauds the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for finalizing the Treaty for the Blind, a treaty that will allow nations to share or make accessible copies for the print disabled in other countries, who more often than not, have little access to reading materials. WIPO issued draft text (PDF) of the treaty yesterday in Morocco.

The Treaty for the Blind creates a copyright exception and makes it legal to share accessible print copies with other nations. Before the landmark decision, antiquated international copyright laws made it difficult for developing nations—where 90 percent of the world’s 285 million blind live—to convert print materials into Braille books, audio recordings or accessible digital files.

As a result of the treaty, the diversity of content available to the blind will increase dramatically around the world. Currently, only 5 percent of all printed materials in the U.S. are accessible to the blind; worldwide, while only 1 percent of world’s blind have access to books, including job and educational materials.

“By passing what is an exception to copyright, the World Intellectual Property Organization demonstrated that there is international support for balance in copyright law,” said Carrie Russell, “We applaud the world delegates for approving a treaty that makes it possible for every visually-impaired person around the world to have fair access to reading materials.”

The American Library issued this joint statement with the Library Copyright Alliance (PDF). The Library Copyright Alliance is made up of the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries.