One year ago, on June 28, 2013, at a diplomatic conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) agreed on a historic international copyright exception for people with print disabilities, known as the Marrakesh Treaty. We certainly have plenty to celebrate on the first anniversary of the signing of the Treaty, but the road towards equal accessibility for all is still long and there is much that remains to be done. Access to written materials and education is not a privilege, but a basic human right—fundamental to personal, economic, and social development. I hope you join us as we advance this global right and work towards making the Marrakesh Treaty as successful as possible, so that it can empower people with print disabilities—particularly those in developing countries—live fuller lives based on equal access to knowledge.
Two days ago, on Tuesday, June 10, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York made a major ruling that emphasizes the legality of fair use for book digitization. In Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, a unanimous three-judge panel concluded that digitizing books in order to enhance research and provide access to individuals with print disabilities is lawful on the grounds of fair use (Section 107 of the U.S. copyright law). This is an immense victory for fair use as the basis of a balanced intellectual property system, and we, at Benetech, are delighted by it and by its tremendous positive implications for the public interest.
In Part 3 of this blog series, we highlight a report by our CEO, Jim Fruchterman, from Geneva, Switzerland on the latest developments regarding the Marrakesh Treaty to bring accessible books to people with disabilities around the world. Now that sixty-odd countries have signed the Marrakesh Treaty, the emphasis has switched to implementing it. Earlier this month, Jim flew to WIPO headquarters in Geneva to participate in a series of meetings with stakeholder groups working to address the need to change laws and get more accessible books flowing.
At their best, IP laws encourage technological advances, reward creativity, and benefit society. Practical and creative innovators need space to operate and ensure those benefits reach the people who desperately need new solutions but are often least able to afford them. To make this possible, we must ensure balance in copyright laws and defend fair use as a laboratory for creativity. With the leverage of technology and the foundation provided by well thought out IP laws, we can inspire both economic growth and social good.
There were many over-the-top cultural experiences I took in on my recent visit to the U.A.E., where I headed this past November to represent Bookshare at the 32nd Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF). As Director of Content Acquisition for Benetech’s Global Literacy Program, which operates Bookshare, my key role is to engage with publishers in a deep conversation about the power of digital books to improve the lives of people at a reading disadvantage both here in the U.S. and around the world.