The World Blind Union’s (WBU) Right to Read campaign for ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty just concluded two days of meetings in Berlin, Germany. The attendees were mostly the regional coordinators of the campaign, and the news was good. I found the optimism exciting: it seems like we’re moving quickly to getting twenty countries to ratify the Treaty. It even seems likely that it could happen in 2015!
The Skoll Foundation and the United Nations Foundation awarded Benetech a grant to bring written content to millions of people with visual impairments in India. This new grant will enable Benetech to scale up our Bookshare library services in India, where people with visual impairments face a severe dearth of accessible books in formats they can read. It supports a partnership between Benetech and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to expand production and delivery of books in accessible formats in local Indian languages.
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.
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.