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New Treaty to Improve Access to Books for Visually Impaired

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A new international treaty is set to smooth the way for better access to published works for visually impaired people.

Negotiated through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled was adopted my more than 150 nations at a conference in Morocco last week.

The treaty allows countries to make exceptions to copyright laws so that written material can be reproduced in accessible formats, such as larger print, braille and talking books. The Treaty also allows for international distribution of accessible format works.

It is estimated that less than 5 percent of books and other published works are currently available in formats accessible to the world’s 340 million citizens who are blind, visually impaired or have print disabilities.

“This is a landmark copyright treaty, the first of its kind in the history of the multilateral copyright system,” said Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC.

The treaty also includes safeguards to protect the interests of authors and publishers.

While Australia’s Copyright Act 1968 already has exceptions for the creation of accessible format copies, Dreyfus said the laws would be reviewed in light of other aspects of the treaty: “Australia is one of less than 60 countries that already has such provisions but we will need to look at a specific exception for importing and exporting accessible format copies when we formally consider the treaty”.

24 JUNE 2014 UPDATE: Australia has now signed the treaty.

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