[A2k] Politico (EU): Seven EU countries put brakes on blind book treaty

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue May 12 01:05:16 PDT 2015


Seven EU countries put brakes on blind book treaty

Commission and European Blind Union decry procedural delays in Marrakesh
Treaty ratification.

By DAVID MEYER <http://www.politico.eu/author/david-meyer/>

11/5/15, 6:38 PM CET

Updated 11/5/15, 11:06 PM CET

Germany, Italy and the UK are among seven countries that have formed a
minority voting bloc to stop the European Union from ratifying an
international treaty to help the blind and visually impaired get access to
books, POLITICO has learned.

Those countries, plus another four whose identities remain unknown, don’t
want the EU to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty on behalf of all 28 member
states, despite the fact that 15 EU countries — including Germany and the
UK — signed it. A total of 20 signing countries must ratify the agreement
for it to be enforced across all the signatories.

If the 2013 United Nations treaty goes into effect, signatories would have
make exceptions within their national copyright laws for the reproduction
and distribution of published works in braille and audio. Less than 10
percent of the books published each year are available in such formats,
according to the World Blind Union.

The countries also would have to allow cross-border exchange of published
material in these formats for educational institutions and associations for
the blind.

“The main impact is, of course, for countries that belong to the developing
world. They have down to 2 percent of books that might be in some way
accessible,” said Wolfgang Angermann, president of the European Blind Union
(EBU), who is blind. “You have vast lingual areas for English, Spanish,
Portuguese and French. All these countries are dependent on an
international treaty.”

He said the Germans in particular are concerned that “the EU might claim
more and more exclusive competence in terms of dealing with international

However, advisors to the European Commission, Parliament and Council have
all weighed in with legal opinions that support the EU’s exclusive right to
ratify the treaty, but formal negotiations within the Council are stalled
and there is no debate scheduled before the current Latvian presidency ends
in June.

In addition, internal legal advice at the German justice ministry, which is
handling the Marrakesh Treaty in the Council, says the treaty’s
ratification “falls into the exclusive competence of the European Union,”
according to information seen by POLITICO.

“I hope that the member states blocking the compromise will review their
position as soon as possible in the interest of the common cause,” Andrus
Ansip, Commission vice-president, said in an interview.

Germany, Italy and the UK have taken the public position that EU governs
cross-border trade, but the copyright aspects are for member states to

ulia Reda, a member of parliament for Germany’s Pirate party, said her
country’s position made little sense because the EU has already claimed
exclusive competence over copyright exceptions. She cited, for example, the
exception for temporary copies included in the Information Society
Directive, a 2001 attempt to harmonize parts of copyright law across the
EU, and exemptions for libraries, museums and educational institutions
added in the 2012 orphan works directive.

The Latvian presidency, however, is still optimistic of reaching a deal.

“This proposal is still open,” said a person with first-hand knowledge of
the talks, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the
discussions. “We still hope that the blocking member states will come back
to unblock this.”

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