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Marrakesh VIP Treaty: Key Takeaways


Introduction


On June 27, 2013, the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) adopted the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (“Marrakesh Treaty”).


The Marrakesh Treaty prescribes measures to make copyrighted works accessible to persons with visual impairment or other print disabilities. At present, there are 93 contracting parties to the Marrakesh Treaty. India signed the Marrakesh Treaty on April 30, 2014, and ratified it on June 24, 2014. However, India had already recognized the adaptation of works in accessible formats to facilitate access for persons with disabilities as ‘fair dealing’ vide the 2012 amendment to the Copyright Act, 1957.


Background


Millions of persons across the world who are blind or visually impaired do not have access to books and other literature because they are published in mainstream formats. Before the adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty, less than 5% of the books published every year were in formats accessible by the blind and visually impaired.


Furthermore, the publication of accessible copies of copyrighted work was not considered fair use or fair dealing in most countries' copyright laws. These issues necessitated the adoption of an international instrument for the creation and use of accessible formats of works for the visually impaired. This instrument was the Marrakesh Treaty.


Key Provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty


The Marrakesh Treaty consists of 22 articles. Articles 2 - 10 contain the key provisions regarding the rights, obligations, and ancillary rules on accessible format copies of works for beneficiary persons. A summary of these provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty, along with minor remarks is provided in the table below for ease of reference.


Article

Marginal Note

Summary & Remarks

2

Definitions

The terms ‘works’, ‘accessible format copy’, and ‘authorized entity’ are defined. These definitions help understand the scope and applicability of the Marrakesh Treaty.

  • ‘Work’ refers to literary and artistic works including text, notation, and illustrations.

  • ‘Accessible format copy’ refers to an alternative manner/form of a work that gives beneficiary persons access to the work as comfortably as a person without visual impairment would have.

  • ‘Authorized entity’ refers to an entity recognized by the government to provide education, infrastructure training, and adaptive reading to beneficiary persons on a non-profit basis.


3

Beneficiary Persons

Any person who is blind, has a visual impairment, perceptual/reading disability resulting in an inability to read printed works, or is unable to focus or move their eyes for normal reading due to a physical disability.

4

National Law Limitations and Exceptions Regarding Accessible Format Copies

This is a crucial article that imposes on contracting parties the obligation to include limitations and exceptions in their copyright laws to permit the right of reproduction, distribution, and making available to the public works in accessible format copies for beneficiary persons. This Article also provides that authorized entities may make and supply accessible format copies of works to beneficiary persons without the permission of the rights holder. To do the aforesaid, authorized entities must have lawful access to the copy of the work, and supply it to beneficiary persons on a non-profit basis, and any changes made to the work should not be more than is necessary to make it accessible. Beneficiary persons are permitted to make accessible format copies of works for their personal use under this article.

5

Cross-Border Exchange of Accessible Format Copies

This article provides that contracting parties must ensure limitations and exceptions introduced to their copyright laws facilitate the distribution and availability of accessible format copies in other contracting parties. Authorized entities can make accessible format copies available for exclusive use by beneficiary persons in another contracting party without the rights holder's authorization.

6

Importation of Accessible Format Copies

Where national laws of a contracting party permit the creation of accessible format copies, the contracting party must also permit the import of accessible format copies of works without the permission of the rights holders.

7

Obligations Concerning Technological Measures

This article provides an exception to the legal remedies against the circumvention of technological measures under copyright laws. Circumvention of technological measures can include unauthorized decryption, avoiding, deactivating, bypassing or removing technological measures to gain access to copyrighted works. Under this article, the remedies against circumvention do not prevent beneficiary persons from enjoying the limitations and exceptions regarding accessible format copies provided under the Marrakesh Treaty.

8

Respect for Privacy

Contracting parties are obligated to protect the privacy of the beneficiary persons when implementing this treaty.

9

Cooperation to Facilitate Cross-Border Exchange

This article highlights the importance of international cooperation in realizing the purpose of the Marrakesh Treaty. It also stipulates that contracting parties must foster cross-border exchange of accessible format copies of works by assisting authorized entities to identify each other in other contracting parties. Contracting parties must also make information on the policies and practices of authorized entities available to interested parties.

10

General Principles on Implementation

Contracting parties have the freedom to determine suitable methods for implementing the treaty in their national legal systems.


The remaining articles of the Marrakesh Treaty are administrative and operational with respect to the implementation of the treaty by contracting parties.


Conclusion


The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted with the aim of resolving the global book famine. According to a 2013 report by WIPO titled ‘Main Provisions and Benefits of the Marrakesh Treaty’, the advantages associated with implementing the Marrakesh Treaty include: (i) increased access for blind and visually impaired persons to books and other literature; (ii) improve awareness about the challenges encountered by persons who are blind, or persons with visual impairment or other print disabilities; (iii) providing them with greater access to education; (iv) increasing their social and cultural integration and participation; (v) alleviating poverty by enabling — to contribute to the national economy.


The Marrakesh Treaty is instrumental in addressing the issue of access faced by millions of blind and visually impaired persons across the world. It is also the first international treaty on copyright law that is founded on human rights. The provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty expand the horizons of the applicability of copyright law and provide a different perspective on how copyright law can be used for the good of vulnerable sections of society.


The full text of the Marrakesh Treaty can be found here.

 

References:

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