Benetech continues to be a driving force for accessibility, and we are proud to be one of the key proponents of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. This treaty requires its contracting member nations to implement exceptions to their national copyright laws that make it easier for individuals with print disabilities to access printed works in accessible formats. It also establishes rules for the exchange of such accessible format copies across borders. Now that the Marrakesh Treaty is officially in force in the United States today, May 8, 2019, Benetech is at the forefront of expanded opportunities for a global library of accessible materials with the goal of offering millions of books to millions of people that they can read in ways that work for them.
What is Changing with Bookshare
The Marrakesh Treaty was largely modeled after Section 121 of U.S. Copyright Law that enables nonprofit entities to make and distribute accessible copies of books for qualified individuals. In general, Bookshare will continue to operate as it has, although there are a few changes that are highlighted below. It is important to note that individuals seeking access to Bookshare’s library will still be required to provide proof of eligibility from a competent authority, and they will still enjoy over 700,000 books in multiple reading formats. Below are highlights of some key changes to the U.S. law as ratification goes into force:
- The types of materials that can be added to qualifying libraries have expanded to include plays and musical works.
- The language that defines eligible individuals has been clarified (see below).
- We anticipate increased availability of materials on a global basis as the ratifying countries develop their infrastructure and expand their libraries of accessible materials. The treaty will allow for importing and exporting of such materials by authorized entities on behalf of eligible individuals.
Have the qualifications for Bookshare changed?
The language that defines eligible individuals has been clarified, and, as a result, Bookshare is updating the language on our website and in our forms over the coming months to reflect this change. In broad terms, however, eligibility for Bookshare has not changed significantly. The exact text of the new language can be found in the FAQ document below.
What is the Marrakesh Treaty?
The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, was adopted on June 27, 2013 by the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The Marrakesh Treaty requires its contracting member nations to create limitations and exceptions to copyright law that will make it easier for individuals with print disabilities to access printed works in accessible formats such as braille and digital audio files. It also establishes rules for the exchange of such accessible format copies across borders. On September 30, 2016, the Marrakesh Treaty entered into force with 20 member states. The United States deposited its instrument of ratification with WIPO on February 8, 2019, which means that its obligations will enter into force on May 8, 2019. Currently, 82 countries are covered by the Marrakesh Treaty, according to WIPO.
[Above text adapted from the document, “Understanding The Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act,” February 2019, published by the U.S. Copyright Office]