Monday, October 27, 2008

Coming Up November 3: World Treaty Proposal on Accessible Information Needs Your Voice

Today I read a blog post by my friend Ron Graham on Access Ability,"Call to Advocacy for Accessible Information".
Even though I have done my post for the day, I felt this was very important information to get out to you. It underlies much of what I work towards in the area of accessiblility. Ron is alerting us to a new treaty for the blind and visually impaired. It addresses all the things that are frustrating me about having incredible technology to access print in new media formats but having out-dated legal issues binding the use of the technology and limiting access.
Ron's post has all the information and links needed to understand and to actively alert our leaders on voting for this treaty. WIPO is the World Intellectual Property Organization and the meeting where this will be on the agenda is November 3.
If I am able to connect with DAISY Consortium for a radio show this week, we will discuss this.
Below is an excerpt from the bulletin concerning the treaty. I have put some text in red that I found very appropriate!

World Blind Union proposal for a WIPO Treaty for Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled Persons
"Today persons who are blind or otherwise reading disabled face enormous obstacles in accessing copyrighted works. In an ideal world, publishers would make works available in formats accessible to the blind, visually impaired and reading disabled. In practice, this happens only rarely. Even in the wealthiest markets,1 less than 5 percent of published books are accessible to persons who are blind, and access in developing countries is often more limited. At the same time, innovations in information technology have created exciting opportunities to expand access. Traditionally, visually impaired persons have relied upon audio works that were cumbersome to use, expensive raised paper braille editions of works, and large type books printed on paper.
Today these approaches are being supplemented by a number of new digital technologies. Using standards like the Digital Accessible Information SYstem (DAISY), it is possible to publish works with highly usable indexes and searching technologies that can be used in audio, refreshable raised braille, or large type readers. Documents can be distributed at very low costs over the Internet or cell phone networks. The prices of the new digital reading devices vary according to functionality and purpose, but are becoming very affordable, even in developing countries.
While new technologies make it possible to imagine a world where visually impaired persons have access to a broad variety of documents at the same time as sighted people, the out-of-date legal environment is a barrier. Far more often than not, it is too difficult or impossible to obtain licenses from copyright owners. Some countries have limitations and exceptions in copyright laws to enable works to be made accessible for persons with reading disabilities without the permission of copyright owners, but the provisions vary considerably from country to country, and are often quite restrictive, or focused only on older technologies such as raised paper braille. Of particular concern to the WBU is the fact that the current regimes of limitations and exceptions do not permit the import and exports of accessible works. As a consequence of these factors, the total number of accessible works is very low, particularly in smaller market countries.

The Proposed Treaty
The WBU seeks to greatly expand access to works by a global platform for distributing accessible works. This involves creating a harmonized global minimum standard for copyright limitations and exceptions for blind, visually impaired and reading disabled persons that allows exports and imports of works in accessible formats to qualified persons. It is anticipated that this will both facilitate greater access to works under copyright limitations and exceptions, and also motivate publishers to publish works in accessible formats.
The basic structure of the proposal is a two tiered set of limitations and exceptions to the rights of copyright owners. Non-profit institutions would have the right to publish and distribute works in accessible formats if four conditions were met.
The person or organization wishing to undertake any activity under this provision has lawful access to that work or a copy of that work;
the work is converted to an accessible format, which may include any means needed to navigate information in the accessible format, but does not introduce changes other than those needed to make the work accessible to a visually impaired person;
copies of the work are supplied exclusively to be used by visually impaired persons; and
the activity is undertaken on a non-profit basis.
The Treaty proposal also provides for more limited exceptions for commercial publishers to make works available to the visually impaired when:
“the work or copy of the work that is to be made into an accessible format is not reasonably available in an identical or largely equivalent format enabling access for the visually impaired, and the entity providing this accessible format gives notice to the owner of copyright of such use and adequate remuneration to copyright owners is available.”
The biggest beneficiaries of the treaty will be blind and visually impaired persons living in developing countries, as they will have far greater access to works currently only available in high-income countries. However, even developed countries will benefit enormously from the liberalization of access to foreign collections of accessible works, and from the expansion of the rights for the visually impaired, including in areas such as technological protection measures or restrictive contracts. Moreover, given the importance of economies of scale, everyone will benefit from the larger global market for accessible works."

Read the full document here:


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