WIPO Paves Way for Treaty to Benefit Persons with Print Disabilities

Video news release transcript (3’23”)

Delegates from WIPO’s 185 member states will meet in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh from June 16 to 30, 2013 to conclude a treaty that promises to improve access to published works for the many visually impaired and people with print disabilities around the world.

A decision to convene a diplomatic conference – the final phase of treaty negotiations - was taken by member states on December 17, 2012 during an extraordinary session of the WIPO General Assembly. Delegations agreed that while more work was needed, the current status of negotiations was mature enough to convene a diplomatic conference in June 2013. The decision was welcomed by stakeholders.

Uglejesa Zvekic, Chairman of General Assembly - “I am convinced that we have indeed reached a very good result that will enable us to reach our normative objective and that is the conclusion and the adoption of the very important Treaty on VIPS.”

Dan Pescod, Vice Chair, World Blind Union ‘Right to Read Campaign’ - “I am still digesting the information but I am very pleased we have got to this point in our work to the Treaty.”

Francis Gurry, WIPO Director General - “This is an extremely important decision that has been taken by the Member States to convene a Diplomatic Conference to conclude a new Treaty that will create a legal framework which will make it a lot easier for visually impaired persons, the blind and the print-disabled, to have access to all the works that are published in the world and to have access in formats that enable them to be able to consume the works.”

Some 300 million blind or visually impaired people, and persons with print disabilities, around the world stand to benefit from a more flexible copyright regime adapted to current technological realities. Individuals with reading impairment often need to convert information into Braille, large print, audio, electronic and other formats using assistive technologies. Only a very small percentage of published books around the world are available in formats accessible to the visually impaired. While some countries have domestic legislation that grants limitations and exceptions for use of copyrighted works by visually impaired and people with print disabilities, there is a legal vacuum at the international level which a future treaty would fill.

Dan Pescod, Vice Chair, World Blind Union ‘Right to Read Campaign’. - “With this Treaty the organizations that make most of those books available, organizations like mine or the National Institute of Blind People in the UK, we would be able to send our collections of accessible books to other countries where they have even less in a way of resources, so the blind people in those countries can read those books. At the moment copyright law does not allow that to happen, with the Treaty that would enable to happen and that would make a significant difference in the number of books the people can read.”

Delegates were grateful to the Moroccan Government for its offer to host the diplomatic conference. Morocco is the first-ever Arab country to host a high-level WIPO negotiation.

Ambassador Omar Hilale, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations at Geneva - “It would be the 1st Diplomatic Conference in an Arab country. There have been Diplomatic Conferences around the world – in the five continents- but never in an Arab country. Luckily Marrakesh is protected by its own “guardian angel”, so everything that happens in Marrakesh succeeds and achieves a positive result.”