[A2k] WBU's Post-SCCR 25 Press Release

Chris Friend king.henry at btinternet.com
Mon Dec 3 08:00:33 PST 2012

WORLD BLIND UNION (WBU) press release 25 November 2012

Press Release - WIPO Negotiations Treaty for Blind people

Talks in the balance: EU backs treaty leaving USA isolated 

Geneva, 25.11.2012 - A four year UN negotiation on a new World Intellectual
Property Organisation (WIPO) treaty for people who are blind or have other
print disabilities hangs in the balance. Will the world seize the
opportunity to make it legal for blind people to share books across borders?

WBU delegates attended the negotiations which took place between 19 and 23
November in Geneva.  

WBU said that negotiators from all parts of the world worked hard on the
treaty in SCCR25 and they welcomed this.

WBU delegates were also cheered by the EU declaration on the first day of
the session that it is now willing to back a binding treaty. The EU had
vehemently opposed a treaty not long ago, so this is a very significant
result of the advocacy of users and the European Parliament on this matter.

Dan Pescod, who leads WBU's European campaign for the treaty, explained:

"We have campaigned for years with hundreds of members of the European
Parliament to get EU backing for a treaty. This is a significant and welcome
step forward, but the EU needs now to ensure it supports the human rights of
blind people to access information. It should do this by negotiating a
simple and workable treaty."

The USA delegation still has not pronounced the word "treaty" at these
negotiations. It is now the only major negotiator not to do so. WBU pointed
out this fact on the last day of the meeting in their closing remarks. 

Maryanne Diamond, leader of the WBU delegation, commented:

"I had to point out the omission of the word "treaty" from the warm words of
the US head of delegation. The USA has had time decide its position on a
treaty- it is now high time it made its support clear". 

With the WIPO "Extraordinary General Assembly" in three week's time tasked
with agreeing the nature of the new law (treaty or non-binding soft law),
the nature of that law is a pressing concern for disability activists.
Historically, WIPO only deals in treaties to protect publishers' rights. WBU
is urging negotiators to afford them the same level of protection for the
human rights of blind people.

Some negotiators, including a few EU member states, still seem to be pushing
issues which deal more with rights holder concerns than those of the blind
and print disabled people this treaty is supposed to serve. 

Rahul Cherian, from Indian WBU member Inclusive Planet, said: 

"The objective of this treaty must be that of helping blind and print
disabled people to get accessible format books, especially in developing
countries. To achieve this goal, it must be workable, simply worded and
effective for blind and print disabled people and their organisations to

The heart of the treaty is cross-border sharing of works. We will push hard
to ensure that the provisions on this matter are clear and simple."
Chris Friend, head of WBU's Right to Read campaign, added: 

"We need those provisions to clearly permit cross-border sharing of
accessible books both between organisations and directly from organisations
to blind or print disabled individuals. We reject complicated requirements
for checks on whether the books are commercially available. Such procedures
would sacrifice the usability of the treaty on the altar of publisher

Friend further commented:

"We are hopeful that the negotiations will still lead to a binding and
useful treaty in 2013. The goodwill exists to get the job done. The momentum
of the recent negotiations must not be lost."


An end to the "book famine"

Even in 2012, blind people and others living with a print disability such as
those with dyslexia still have very limited access to books. Only some 7% of
published books are ever made accessible (in formats such as Braille, audio
and large print) in the richest countries, and less than 1% in poorer ones.
This is a "book famine". 

An international treaty for blind people

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) makes treaties and other
international laws on copyright

Back in 2009 the World Blind Union, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay proposed a
WIPO treaty to help relieve the book famine in which fewer than 1% of books
are published accessibly in developing countries, and only some 7% in the
most developed.

Briefly, the new treaty would:

Allow specialist organisations to make accessible copies of books in all
signatory countries 
Make it legal to send accessible books across national borders
Still respect copyright law: it is not an attack on publishers!
Make more books available for blind people

About WBU

The World Blind Union (WBU) is the internationally recognized organization,
representing the 285 million blind and partially sighted persons in 190
member countries.  We are the Voice of the Blind, speaking to governments
and international bodies on issues concerning blindness and visual
impairments in conjunction with our members. For further information, please



Chris Friend, Chair, WBU right to read campaign
cfriend at sightsavers.org
+44 7919 552 170

Dan Pescod, Vice Chair, WBU right to read campaign
Dan.pescod at rnib.org.uk
+44 207 391 2009

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