The United States and more than 150 other countries are working to end the “book famine” for the print disabled.
Access to the written word is something many of us may take for granted. But, for the world’s estimated 340 million blind, visually impaired and otherwise print disabled persons, a hunger for the knowledge contained in books can often go unfed.
“There is a rather small proportion of all published text materials that are published in accessible-format copies,” said Shira Perlmutter, Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The United States and more than 150 other countries are working to end this “book famine,” with the recent adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty.
The agreement was adopted in late June at the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Diplomatic Conference. Ms. Perlmutter, who co-headed the U.S. delegation, said the treaty aims to provide those with print disabilities access to a much wider range of materials while maintaining the integrity of the international copyright framework:
“What this treaty would do is to require any country that signs the treaty to implement in their own national law an exception that permits entities to make accessible format copies for the blind and otherwise print disabled.”
In a new international approach, the treaty would also provide for cross-border exchange of those accessible format copies. Next steps will include ratification and implementation in each country. The treaty will enter force once 20 countries have ratified it.
“It’s been a high priority for the administration to do something to help reduce the book famine. … And in particular President Obama, last April, met with the President of Brazil and issued a joint statement supporting an international instrument that would deal with this problem.”
“We think,” said Ms. Perlmutter, “This is a tremendous and historical achievement and we look forward to seeing it really making a difference on the ground.”