The ABA expressed support this month for prompt ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, and for enactment of implementing legislation to clarify U.S compliance with the treaty.
“Ratifying the treaty would help open doors to countries worldwide, allowing literature to be disseminated in accessible formats with no borders,” ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman wrote in an April 17 letter to the leadership of the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations, and Judiciary. The letter will be included in the record of an April 18 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
In his letter, Susman explained that the treaty, which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), requires contracting parties to adopt exceptions and limitations in their domestic copyright laws to permit reproduction of public works into accessible formats usable by individuals with a range of disabilities that interfere with the effective reading of printed material.
While the United States has adopted such exceptions, over 130 countries designated by WIPO have not. As a result, the reproduction for personal use of works in Braille or other writing systems for the disabled in those countries may constitute a copyright violation, and the import or export of accessible formats across international borders may not be allowed.
During the hearing, there was overwhelming support for the treaty from the witnesses, who included Manisha Singh, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the State Department; ABA Board of Governors member Scott C. LaBarre, who appeared on behalf of the 50,000 member National Federation of the Blind; Alan Robert Adler, of the Association of American Publishers, and Jonathan Band, from the Library Copyright Alliance.