U.S. Previews Proposal to Enhance Access to Copyrighted Works for the Blind and Persons with Print Disabilities

Geneva,
May 27, 2010

The United States previewed a proposal to enhance world-wide access to copyrighted works for the blind and persons with print disabilities at an informal session of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) in Geneva, May 27, 2010.

The U.S. proposal is designed to provide greater certainty in international copyright law. “We are pleased to be offering a proposal to establish clear, definite norms for the cross-border sharing of special format copies,” according to Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property David Kappos.

The copyright laws of the United States and many other countries contain exceptions that permit the production and distribution of copyrighted works in specialized formats (such as Braille and audio versions of books) for the benefit of blind and print disabled persons.

Nonetheless, the legality of exporting and importing such accessible copies is not clear under current international copyright law. As a result, accessible copies of books lawfully made in one country either may be needlessly reproduced in another country or not available at all.

The United States welcomed comments on the draft proposal, which will be tabled formally before the next session of the SCCR in Geneva, June 21-24, 2010. The U.S. delegation noted that the language of the proposal could become a Joint Recommendation of the WIPO General Assemblies or part of another international instrument such as a treaty.

At the last session of the SCCR, the Committee agreed to accelerate its work on copyright exceptions and limitations, including consideration of a proposal for a treaty submitted by Brazil, Ecuador, and Paraguay based on a text advocated by the World Blind Union. The United States is firmly committed to improving access to copyrighted works for the blind and persons with print disabilities.