On 18 December 2012 an extraordinary session of the World Intellectual Property Organization convened a Diplomatic Conference for June of next year. Its main mandate is to conclude a treaty regulating limitations and exceptions for use of copyright to facilitate access to copyrighted works for millions of visually impaired persons and people with print disabilities.
In few countries does current legislation make provision for specific limitations for the visually impaired. In most cases the exceptions made to copyright are intended for the benefit of the handicapped in general, without specifying the type of impairment (as in, for instance, article 31bis, section 2, of the consolidated text of Spain's Copyright Act). Internationally the legal vacuum is still greater, in the absence of any treaty dealing with limitations of this kind. This project is estimated potentially to benefit some 300 million blind or visually impaired persons around the globe, particularly those living in the less developed nations. The future treaty is intended to honour the rights of this group of people to non-discrimination, equal opportunities, accessibility, and full participation and inclusion in society proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Under the draft text of the treaty the contracting parties are obliged to make works available to the visually handicapped in an accessible format. This will entail a limitation of the copyright holders’ rights of reproduction, distribution, interpretation, translation and communication to the public (see article C of the draft). The conversion of the works into accessible formats (Braille, large print, audio and other formats) will be undertaken by authorized entities who will similarly have the task of making the copies available to the beneficiaries and facilitating the exchange of works with entities in other countries. The manner in which that exchange is to take place, together with the laying down of parameters to determine what should be understood by the distribution of the works at a reasonable price in the different countries, are issues that will have to be discussed at the conference in the coming month of June.
Author: Patricia Mariscal
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