World Intellectual Property Organization

Background to the Diplomatic Conference

Further to the decision of the WIPO General Assembly which met in extraordinary session on December 17 and 18, 2012 and the Preparatory Committee that followed, the Diplomatic Conference to conclude a Treaty to facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities will be hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco and will take place at the Palais des Congrès in Marrakesh.

The aim of the conference is to adopt an international treaty to improve access to copyrighted works for the many visually impaired and people with print disabilities around the world.

The Conference is open to Government delegations, representatives of IGOs and NGOs and others invited to the Conference.  For more details please refer to Rule 2 of the Draft Rules of Procedure.

There are more than 285 million blind and visually impaired persons (VIPs) in the world, 90 per cent of whom live in developing countries. A WIPO survey in 2006 found that fewer than 60 countries have limitations and exceptions clauses written into their copyright laws that make special provision for VIPs, for example, for Braille, large print or digitized audio versions of copyrighted texts. Furthermore, because copyright law is “territorial”, where they exist these exemptions usually do not cover the import or export of works converted into accessible formats, even between countries with similar rules. Organizations in each country must negotiate licenses with right-holders to exchange special formats across borders, or produce their own material, a costly undertaking that severely limits access by VIPs to printed works of all kinds. According to the World Blind Union (WBU), of the million or so books published each year in the world, less than 5 per cent are made available in formats accessible to VIPs.

Further impetus to the WIPO talks has come from adoption of the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states (Article 30) that laws protecting intellectual property must not pose a discriminatory or unreasonable barrier limiting access to cultural materials.

The adoption of a new instrument would improve international availability of accessible formats for VIPs and permit exchange of these formats across borders.

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