International Treaty for the Visually Impaired Could Bring an End to International Copyright Laws

Wednesday 23 January 2013 @ 1.16 p.m. | IP & Media

The World Intellectual Property Organisation has, as of late last year, moved one step closer to the legalisation of an exception to international copyright laws that would allow visually impaired people (VIP) greater access to copyrighted materials. This move is in direct response to the acknowledgement of the reduction of VIPs to second class citizens due to their disadvantages in having less access to books.

The international treaty, if agreed upon, will help an estimated 256 million blind and partially sighted people. Currently, in developed countries, only one out of every twenty books is available to VIPs, while in developing countries, only one out of every one hundred book is published in braille or as a talking book. This has resulted in VIPs gaining less access to education as the rest of society. 

However, strong opposition to the treaty has come from major European and American software and book publishing companies. The Association of American Publishers have criticised the treaty as unnecessary and place their reliance on the free market, where if enough incentive exists for publishers, then such books would become readily available. However, it is criticised that the true concern for these companies is the creation of a dangerous precedent with international copyright laws could be relaxed in future cases where a clear public interest may exist.

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