On March 24, 2016, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-11, “An Act to amend the Copyright Act (access to copyrighted works or other subject-matter for persons with perceptual disabilities)”, sponsored by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. On May 17, 2016 the Bill was fast-tracked through the House of Commons and after several swift discussions in the Senate, it received royal assent on June 29, 2016. The timing coincided with Ecuador and Guatemala also joining, and so on June 29th, Canada became the 20th country to sign onto the Marrakesh Treaty. The result of having twenty countries sign the Treaty means it the treaty will come into force on September 30, 2016: the red light has turned amber, and the amber light will turn green, and this is all very good news for global literacy.
The goal of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Marrakesh VIP Treaty (full title: “Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled”) is to standardise the rules, and so facilitate the exchange of published works in accessible formats across national borders. This kind of exchange is important because only a very small percentage of published works — estimates range from 1 to 7 percent, depending on the country — are available in such formats, which include audiobooks, Braille, and e-books.
The countries who have ratified the Treaty currently include Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Braziil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Israel, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Repulic of Korea, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay.
Starting at the end of September 2017, organisations like ours from the contracting countries were able to begin to exchange our accessible format collections.
We welcome opportunities to share our collection with authorized entities in other countries who are signatories to the Marrakesh Treaty. If you would like to learn more about who we are, or how we work, please write to the NNELS Program Coordinator: email@example.com. We welcome partnerships with organizations of all sizes from all places.
Canadian Copyright Legislation
We endorsed the federal government’s introduction of first Bill-65 under the Conservative government, and Bill-11 under the Liberal government, and in both cases encouraged the legislation to proceed swiftly.
We share Michael Geist’s concerns that the legislation is “more restrictive than required by the treaty” in two key areas which we hope our community can readdress when the Copyright Act discussions are next reopened in 2017:
- The Marrakesh Treaty does not require adding royalty payments to the legislation. The idea of royalty payments introduces a barrier to exchange, not just in the payment of royalties, but especially in their administration.
- This is an opportunity to amend the act to remove the “commercially available” and “within a reasonable time and for a reasonable price” clauses because they are also not required by the Treaty, or, in most cases, by the countries with whom we would be exchanging content.
For More Information
- World Blind Union "The Treaty of Marrakesh Explained"
- WIPO's "Summary of the Marrakesh Treaty"
- Michael Geist's articles pertaining to the Treaty
(Last updated: 4 October 2017)