The Marrakesh Treaty

According to the World Blind Union, blind and low vision people currently have access to less than ten per cent of all published material.

In June 2014, over 60 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, took an historic step towards changing this by signing the Marrakesh treaty in Geneva. The treaty will give an estimated 285 million people world-wide with vision impairments access to more books published in accessible formats including large print, braille, and audio.

This treaty seeks fundamental changes in copyright law across nations: the making of accessible works for blind or low vision people without having to seek copyright permission (from the author or publisher), the breaking of technological protections measures to enable this, and allowing the international exchange of accessible formats of works. The exceptions will not apply when the accessible format is commercially available.

In the future University libraries will be able to work together across the globe to make and share academic articles and book chapters in accessible formats for their vision impaired staff and students.

Attorney General George Brandis said, that the Treaty is a key step towards ending the ‘book drought’ for people with a visual impairment. The Federal government as signatory, is currently seeking submissions to amend our Copyright legislation (Part VB, Div 3 and s200AB) to align with the treaty, and will then seek to ratify the treaty through Parliament. Once twenty countries have ratified, the treaty will come into effect.

Antony Ley, Information Policy Officer

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