[A2k] KEI Closing statement at Marrakesh
james.love at keionline.org
Fri Jun 28 03:01:50 PDT 2013
KEI Closing statement at Marrakesh Diplomatic Conference
Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons
who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled
This was read by James Love
June 27, 2013
Mr. President. KEI is a non-profit organization that focuses on human
rights and the public interest in the governance of knowledge.
In July 2008, Manon Ress from KEI worked with Chris Friend of the WBU
to convene an expert group to draft a proposed treaty. Since then, we
have worked with the WBU, other blind groups, non-blind NGOs,
businesses and negotiators from many countries who collectively
overcame many political barriers to achieve this result.
The road to Marrakesh has not been easy. It has taken five years.
There were some disappointments along the way, such as the decision in
2011 to eliminate deaf persons as beneficiaries, something that Helen
Keller would have found appalling, and my mother, who is deaf, would
A huge coalition of very large businesses launched a last minute
effort to block or weaken the treaty.
It is also unfortunate that nearly all negotiations on the text took
place either off the record, or in secret. The records of the
diplomatic conference will be very limited, with little information
about country positions or the rationale for various articles.
That said, with all of these flaws, WIPO is now the most transparent
forum for intellectual property norm setting, by far. Most
importantly, the public had access to negotiating text, sometimes on a
daily or even twice daily basis. As many delegates have already noted,
this negotiation shows that when you publish the negotiating texts,
you can receive highly informative feedback, and reach an agreement.
And, the agreement reached in this manner has more legitimacy.
The text of this treaty provides a strong legal and political basis
for copyright exceptions for persons with disabilities. The treaty
will vastly expand access to works, particularly among persons sharing
a common language, such as English, Spanish, Arabic and French, or
persons who read multiple languages, or persons living in other
countries with different languages.
My mother-in law became blind late in her life. She lived with our
family, in the United States, and there were no accessible books in
French. Had this treaty come earlier, she would not have lost her
ability to read books in her native language in the last years of her
The text addresses the most important barriers to access. While the
text is complex in some areas, the treaty is truly user friendly, and
not at all onerous as regards those who will use it to expand access
for blind persons and other beneficiaries.
This is the first treaty administered by WIPO that focuses on user
rights, and the first treaty at WIPO that focuses on the human right
'to participate in the cultural life of the community.'
The treaty provides for an Article on the Respect for Privacy, the
obligation to provide for a legal path to circumvent technical locks
on works, the recognition that exceptions must work across borders,
and the recognition of the importance of general exceptions and "fair
practices, dealings or uses".
We are pleased that country statements from India mentioned the need
to overcome barriers from contracts, and that Indonesia says the
agreement provides access to text and other content embedded in
It is difficult to comprehend why this treaty generated so much
opposition from publishers and even from patent holders, or why it
took five years to achieve this result. As we celebrate and savor this
moment, we should thank all of those who resisted the constant calls
to lower expectations and accept an outcome far less important than
what was achieved today.
>From everyone at KEI, we thank Francis Gurry, Ambassador Trevor
Clarke, Michelle Woods and all of the WIPO staff, all of the
negotiators, the Open Society Foundation, which supported work on this
treaty for five years, David Hammerstein from TACD, who has been
unable to attend today's session, the many blind and non-blind civil
society NGOs, and everyone else who worked so hard on this just cause.
James Love. Knowledge Ecology International
http://www.keionline.org, +1.202.332.2670, US Mobile: +1.202.361.3040,
Geneva Mobile: +41.76.413.6584, efax: +1.888.245.3140.
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