[A2k] James Love: Disney, Viacom and Other MPAA Members Join Book Publishers to Weaken a Treaty for the Blind

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Tue Apr 23 08:50:33 PDT 2013


Disney, Viacom and Other MPAA Members Join Book Publishers to Weaken a
Treaty for the Blind
Posted: 04/23/2013 7:12 am

>From June 17 to 28, 2013, a diplomatic conference will be convened in
Marrakesh, Morocco on a new UN treaty on copyright exceptions for persons
who are blind or have other disabilities. Copyright industry lobbies have
succeeded in narrowing the scope of the agreement, and a recent lobbying
effort by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the
Association of American Publishers (AAP) has blown up earlier compromises
and progress on the negotiating text.

The World Blind Union and its members and supporters in the negotiation are
now concerned that that Obama Administration and the European Commission
are making demands that will render the treaty far less useful, or even
derail the negotiations entirely.

The biggest surprise has been the aggressive position taken by the MPAA and
its member organizations. Earlier the Obama White House bowed to MPAA
lobbying and demanded that the UN treaty exclude deaf persons as
beneficiaries, as well as all audio visual works. The exclusion of audio
visual works extends even to videos that include both audio tracks and
embedded text and figures that are used in education and training, and
which could be used to create special format works that were accessible to
persons who are blind.

After the Obama Administration was able to exclude deaf persons as
beneficiaries and audiovisual works entirely from the treaty in 2012, there
was an understanding that the MPAA would be supportive of the treaty --
something that Fritz Attaway had promised before he retired from the MPAA
in September 2012. But in recent months, the MPAA has attacked the treaty
with a vengeance, demanding that it include changes that further restrict
the use of exceptions, and which impose new risks for non-profit libraries
for the blind that use the treaty.

The MPAA lobbying effort is led personally by Chris Dodd, the former U.S.
senator and current MPAA CEO, and targets the White House, the Department
of State and other executive departments, as well as several U.S. Senators
and members of the House of Representatives. Disney and Viacom are among
the companies that are reportedly the most aggressive, and News Corp and
Time Warner are also engaged in the lobby effort.

The MPAA's aggressive actions have encouraged the always hard-line book and
journal publishers to take an even more aggressive position in the
negotiations. Unfortunately, as the USPTO and White Staff have changed, the
Obama Administration has increasingly sided with the MPAA and the book and
journal publishers against blind groups.

As a consequence, last week, the last pre-diplomatic conference produced a
text with 88 brackets, plus 17 "Alternative" versions of text, and few
agreements on the most important issues.

If the Obama Administration and the EU do not show more flexibility and
concern for blind persons, the diplomatic conference in Morocco will either
end in deadlock or produce a lousy treaty that will be limited in scope,
unnecessarily complex and hard to use -- a result eerily similar to a 1971
agreement* to expand access to copyright works in developing countries that
everyone agrees was a failure.

On April 20, 2013, the World Blind Union issued press release which said:

"A four and a half year UN negotiation on a new World Intellectual Property
Organisation (WIPO) treaty for people who are blind or have other print
disabilities is in danger of delivering either a hollow, "trophy treaty" or
no treaty at all . . . the three days of discussion at WIPO this April have
continued in the same vein as the five days of negotiations in February
this year. The negotiators have worked almost exclusively on wording to
reaffirm copyright protections that already exist in international
copyright instruments; and have devoted almost no time to insuring that the
treaty will encourage the cross border sharing of desperately needed books
for the blind."
A blunt and forceful version of this was given by Fredric Schroeder during
the WBU's intervention at the plenary the same day. (Link to video here".)

What are the issues? ...

More here:


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