Concern over access to library material for people with vision disabilities raised with Minister

Europe, March 20 2017

LACA, the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance, has contacted the Minister responsible for intellectual property, Jo Johnson MP, with concerns that proposed changes to the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty in Europe will hamper the ability of libraries to serve people with print disabilities and provide access to works. LACA has identified that proposed changes will mean that libraries face increased costs and bureaucracy when seeking to provide accessible format copies of books and other printed materials to people who are blind or have low vision.

Person reading Braille.Because of a lack of accessible copies, people who are print disabled currently have access to just 7% of all books on the global market. The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted in 2013 to ensure that people with visual impairments have access to books in accessible formats. It contains two important proposals:

  • The countries that ratify the treaty – including the UK – shall enshrine a copyright exception that facilitates the making of accessible works into their domestic copyright law.
  • These countries must allow the import and export of print and digital accessible copies, including copies produced by libraries and other organisations classified under the Treaty as ‘Authorised Entities’.

In September last year, the European Commission proposed a Directive and a Regulation, implementing the Marrakesh Treaty into EU law. The Directive creates a mandatory exception harmonising Member States’ laws for the production of accessible format copies and the Regulation will apply directly in all Member States, permitting the cross-border exchange of works between Member States and other countries which are party to the Treaty. It is likely that the Directive and Regulation will be implemented before the UK leaves the EU.

LACA and 17 organisations representing visually impaired persons and the library and information sectors havecontacted Jo Johnson and MEPs Jane Collins, Sajjad Karim and Mary Honeyball in an open letter with concerns that some EU Member States, including the UK, are supporting changes to the draft Directive and Regulation that are not required under the Treaty and could seriously undermine its objectives.

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