[Ip-health] Vatican calls for copyright changes to give better access to the blind

Jamie Love james.love at keionline.org
Thu Jun 20 13:49:02 PDT 2013


BOOK FAMINE Jun-20-2013 (470 words) xxxi

Vatican calls for copyright changes to give better access to the blind

By Clare Myers
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While church leaders repeatedly call for global
aid for the poor and hungry, a Vatican official urged efforts to end
another sort of hunger: the so-called "book famine."

"Only 1 percent of the books in developing and least developed
countries ... are available in formats accessible to blind people,"
said Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer to
U.N. agencies in Geneva. The percentage in developed countries is not
much higher, being just 5 percent, he said.

In a June 18 address to the World Intellectual Property Organization's
diplomatic conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, Archbishop Tomasi called
for an adjustment to copyright laws to better suit the needs of the
285 million people worldwide who are visually impaired, according to
2012 World Health Organization (WHO) estimates.

Currently, copyright laws in many nations are barriers for making
books available in formats that are accessible to the blind or
visually impaired, the archbishop said in his statement, which was
emailed to Catholic News Service.

The goal of the copyright system is "the dissemination of creative
works to enhance the common good," the archbishop said. "Copyright has
never been an end in itself."

Translating books into Braille and printing them is a lengthy and
expensive process, which is particularly prohibitive for the 90
percent of visually impaired people who live in the developing world,
according to WHO statistics. In an increasingly digital world, the
archbishop argued, technology -- like audio books and text-to-speech
tools -- could make an enormous difference if unfettered by laws he
described as "out-of-date" and "often quite restrictive."

"It is fundamental to create an international instrument that could
give even to impaired people a variety of opportunities to discover
their potential, understand their environment, discover their rights
and put to the best use their talents and resources both for personal
fulfillment and for their contribution to society," Archbishop Tomasi

Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said,
states that individuals have the right to take part in their
community's cultural life and benefit from both the arts and sciences.

The archbishop also referred to Blessed John Paul II's encyclical
"Laborem Exercens," saying that discriminating against impaired
persons is "radically unworthy of man, and a denial of our common
humanity" and that "all persons are called to contribute to society."

He called on the international community to negotiate a compromise
that would make information, education and culture more readily
available for the visually impaired both to empower them and to
promote the common good of society as a whole.

"Everyone has to rise sufficiently above national interests,"
Archbishop Tomasi said. "A new treaty of solidarity with all visually
impaired can and should be concluded as a message of hope for them and
a sign of responsibility by the international community."


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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