Benetech Closing Statement on the Marrakech Treaty

By Benetech, posted on
This post originally appeared on Jim Fruchterman’s Beneblog.


To the Diplomatic Conference in Plenary on

June 27, 2013

On the Adoption of the Treaty of Marrakech

This is an excellent Treaty. The Benetech team is delighted by its adoption today. We have the technology, we have the content, and now we have the legal framework to make it possible for every person with a print disability on the planet to get access to the books they need for education, employment and social inclusion!

At Benetech, we like to think of ourselves as part of Silicon Valley’s heart. We are a high tech organization that is not organized as a for-profit company, but instead as a nonprofit charitable corporation working to ensure technology serves all of humanity. Our goal is not to make money for private interests, but instead to use technology to maximize social good.

For years, we have been working to end the worldwide book famine. This Treaty provides a tremendous tool to accelerate that work. It is our hope that Benetech’s Bookshare library, the authorized entity which we believe has the world’s largest accessible online collection with its 198,000 titles, becomes a major source of books for all people who are blind or otherwise print disabled. Thanks to strong support from publishers and authors, one third of the Bookshare collection, over 60,000 titles, is already available today in every country in the world. In many countries, over 90,000 titles are available.

We want to do everything we can to support the communities of people with disabilities, and the organizations that serve them, to end the book famine in each country. That support includes the sharing of best practices in accessible book production, model agreements for readers with disabilities, and open source access technology for reading the books. In addition, Benetech is happy to provide hosting technology for new, and existing, authorized entities who would like to take advantage of the generous resources the United States government invests in our Bookshare library. We believe it’s possible to build on top of this asset without recreating it. That is the miracle of a robust website: it doesn’t cost much more for it to serve twice, or even ten times, as many people.

Today, I want to call on national governments, the international development organizations funded by governments and donor foundations, to invest in the capacity of authorized entities in each country. We are certain that the investment of access for persons with print disabilities is one of the best investments in terms of returns to society!

I also want to call on national governments to connect their schools, their disabled persons organizations, their libraries and their agencies that serve people with disabilities, with our Bookshare library and all other libraries that share our strong interest in international cooperation.

Finally, I want to make an offer to each country delegation here in Marrakech: for the next year, my organization will offer free library cards to our Bookshare library to any five qualified Beneficiary Persons in your country, for direct distribution from Bookshare to them. We think that you would like to see what’s already possible in your country today in terms of international sharing, and what might be possible in terms of domestic production of accessible books.

Together, we hope to join with the countries of the world, the publishing industry, the World Blind Union and its national affiliates, our peer authorized entities—as well as people with print disabilities themselves—to end the book famine. Together, we can provide equal access to humankind’s knowledge.