Open forum: WIPO

7 Dec 2016 11:45h - 12:45h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

Michele Woods from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) pointed out that the main focus of the session would be the overview of the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty formally adopted in 2013 by WIPO member states. The Marrakesh treaty creates a system of copyright exceptions in facilitating access to publish works to persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. She emphasized WIPO’s work on getting real benefits from the treaty. One of this steps is an establishment of the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) in corporation with the World Blind Union, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and others. Woods added that ABC will work on realizing the Marrakesh Treaty through the capacity building activities.

Mr Manuel Guerra, from the government of Mexico reminded those present that the Marrakesh Treaty is the first international treaty on copyright, and that it was put into motion in Mexico, during September 2016. This international treaty played the important role in a current reform in legislation related to copyright. He added that Mexico is the first country to implement the legal reform necessary to include individuals with disabilities into its bylaws and regulations. The aim of the Mexican government, with respect to the Marrakesh Treaty is to provide individuals with visual disabilities access to information, culture, education and finally employment.

Mr Nicolas Suzor, professor of law at the Queensland Technical University, stressed that the treaty is indeed a significant change in showing how future regulation needs to be internationalised. There are very few required exceptions to protect user rights in international agreements and it’s been left to nations to determine how they protect the rights of users under their own domestic law. That makes this resolution an even bigger landmark. It created a positive obligation to create exceptions. But there is a still work to be done in the implementation of the treaty. In his words massive efforts of digitalisation in a recent period needs to be followed by actions on making these collections available. One idea is to graft some accessible procedures on the legal deposit scheme, a mandatory requirement that any book published is lodged with a library of record.

Ms Trish Hepworth, from the Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), showed strong support from librarian and archivist societies for the Marrakesh Treaty. Only 10% of all published works are available to the people with visual impairment, she added. The question of copyright was a burden to the accessibility goals, so in this sense the treaty is an important way forward. Libraries were also included in drafting the resolution and will serve as authorised entities. She encouraged worldwide implementation of the treaty, and to include a wider range of disabilities to be included in a domestic ratification and implementation process. There is no sign of a significant increase of piracy from this publication, she added. The library sector will work on increasing the base of authorised authorities in every language, every country and format.

Mr Scott LaBarre, from the World Blind Union, stressed that the Marrakesh treaty is much more that a copyright treaty for members in a blind community. It sends a strong global message that access for blind and visually impaired is a global priority. He clearly pointed out that lack of access to materials leads to absence of access to knowledge, which in most cases translates to unemployment. In his words this is stressed by data showing that more than 70% of blind people in the US are unemployed. From 280 million blind people worldwide, 90% are in undeveloped countries and 90% of those do not even have the opportunity to get some education. This treaty is much more a human right crisis rather than an issue of copyright, he added. He urged for the accessibility solutions that are embedded into the product creation. The digital era can deliver some of the Marrakesh promises into a reality. Standards are there and we need to use them.

In a discussion with the audience the question of Internet connectivity was mentioned as an enabler in a global effort for accessibility for visually impaired persons. Also the WBU announced the new guide on how to implement the Marrakesh Treaty. Panelists also mentioned the importance of public forums, such as the IGF for alerting everyone to apply diversity plans that includes people with disabilities. 

by Arvin Kamberi