The European Union votes on the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty

The plenary of the European Parliament approved today the Directive and the Regulation that implement the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. Member States will have a period of 12 after entry into force of the Directive to transpose the text into national law, with the regulation being directly applicable from the date of transposition of the Directive.

Europe’s ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty will be fulfilled after the deposit of the instrument at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

We strongly welcome this significant step towards the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty in Europe. This will allow cross-border exchange of books and other written material in accessible formats for blind persons, visually-impaired persons and other print disabled persons. Although IFLA considers most of the provisions adopted as positive, there is strong concern about the possibility for Member States to allow “compensation” schemes for the making and sharing of accessible format copies.

IFLA already shared this worry after an agreement was reached in trilogue negotiations in 19 May 2017. In a joint statement  with the European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA), IFLA underlines that a provision allowing “compensation” schemes is a major mistake which will drain resources away from those who support people with print disabilities.

The word “compensation” implies that a harm is done to rightsholders by making accessible format copies. However, it is unclear how this would be the case. As IFLA and EBLIDA indicate in the statement, “it was the publishing industry’s persistent failure to provide books in accessible formats to print disabled people at the same price and the same time as to everyone else that made the Treaty necessary in the first place. Such schemes will reduce the ability of libraries and charities to serve print disabled people, despite the conditions in place. In addition to the costs of creating and storing a variety of accessible format publications so that visually impaired people can for the first time read all publications, such schemes will now force libraries and charities to make additional payments to publishers”.

Furthermore, article 21 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities establishes that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to (…) receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others (…) including by: a) Providing information intended for the general public to persons with disabilities in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities in a timely manner and without additional cost”. “Compensation” schemes constitute a violation of human rights, as they make it more expensive for libraries to serve users with print disabilities than others. They will make it particularly hard to tackle the global book famine through the sharing of copies with people with print disabilities in developing countries.

Where compensation schemes exist, they draw away resources from providing support and services. Where they are introduced, they will perversely take us further from achieving the objectives of the Marrakesh Treaty than before.

We strongly encourage Member States to transpose the Directive with no further delay and to not to make the mistake of adopting “compensation” schemes.

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