Marrakesh Treaty Updates

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The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted on June 27, 2013 in Marrakesh, Morocco and it forms part of the body of international copyright treaties administered by WIPO. It has a clear humanitarian and social development dimension and its main goal is to create a set of mandatory limitations and exceptions for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired, and otherwise print disabled. Source: World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted to amend copyright laws to enable print disabled people - especially people in developing countries - to make published works available in accessible formats.

The US signed the Marrakesh Treaty as a 'contracting party' in 2013; however, the US had to amend its existing copyright laws before becoming a 'treaty member'.

Note: In the US, the Chafee Amendment (Section 121) is a specific exception to the copyright law which allows reproduction of copyrighted materials for blind or other people with disabilities. The Library of Congress's National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, established in 1931, falls under the Chafee Amendment. 

Marrakesh Treaty Update

On October 10, 2018, the US ratified the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (MTIA) that amends the US copyright law to meet the terms of the international Marrakesh Treaty. These amendments improve access to accessible materials, including the ability to share accessible materials across borders. On May 8, 2019, the law went into effect. There are 82 member nations which have signed the MTIA.

Changes in US Copyright Law

  • US copyright law has been expanded from nondramatic literary works to ALL literary works and musical works in accessible formats
  • Changed the term "specialized formats" (limited to specific technologies) to "accessible formats" - a broader term that also includes related illustrations integrated with text or notation
  • Updated the beneficiaries of section 121 from "blind or other persons with disabilities" to "eligible person" - a broader term 
  • Authorized entities may export works in accessible formats to either another authorized entity or eligible person in another country
  • Authorized  entities, eligible persons, and agents of eligible persons may import works in accessible formats

Source: United States Copyright Office

Impact of MTIA

  • Bookshare members in the US will soon have access to books from other Marrakesh-ratifying countries
  • Bookshare members outside of the US will soon have access to approximately 100,000 additional books which were available only to US citizens
  • Free movement of accessible materials in dozens of languages
  • Hopefully expanding the accessible materials to more people will increase the supply and demand providing more materials and more publishers who will offer more books in accessible format

Note: Bookshare currently has over 700,000 books in 47 languages. Soon Bookshare will begin importing books from other Marrakesh-ratifying countries.

Source: Benetech