The Petition Supporting WIPO Treaty for the Blind and Print Disabled
The National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind urge all supporters of a treaty promoting exceptions and limitations allowing the production of accessible copies of copyrighted works and the cross-border sharing of such accessible-format copies to sign the following petition:
We, the undersigned, are organizations of and representing the blind and print disabled; blind and print-disabled individuals; friends and family members of blind and print-disabled readers; and organizations and individuals concerned with literacy and education for all. We speak in support of a proposed treaty being considered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to promulgate international norms for the promotion of exceptions and limitations allowing the production of accessible-format copies of copyrighted works and for the cross-border sharing of such accessible-format copies. We support this proposed treaty because we are concerned about the worldwide book famine afflicting the blind and print disabled, which denies them access to the overwhelming majority of published works. The blind and print disabled of the United States have access to less than 5 percent of published works, and the blind and print disabled throughout most of the rest of the world can usually put their hands on less than 1 percent of such works. As a result, the blind and print disabled of our nation and of the world lack access to information, which in turn leads to the lack of education, employment, and full participation in society. The promulgation of legally binding international norms promoting the production and sharing of works in accessible formats, such as Braille and DAISY audio or text, would dramatically alter this state of affairs, and WIPO is to be commended for its work to produce this treaty.
We are concerned, however, that the proposed treaty has been freighted with provisions designed to expand or contract existing copyright obligations, shifting the focus away from the treaty’s proper goals of promoting limitations and exceptions that allow the production of accessible copies of works for the blind and print-disabled without the prior permission of rights holders and the cross-border sharing of the same. We urge WIPO to focus its efforts on these goals and produce a simple, straightforward, and practicable treaty that promotes access to published works for blind and print-disabled readers the world over, while making clear that existing international copyright obligations are not altered or derogated. The nations of the world must not allow this opportunity to create a level playing field for their blind and print-disabled citizens to slip away. We call upon the United States to support an unencumbered treaty at the upcoming diplomatic conference to be held in Marrakech, Morocco, so that the critical work of providing greater access to the world’s knowledge for blind and print-disabled people across the globe can begin.