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  • EYCSEducation, Youth, Culture & Sport (EYCS)

A step towards adoption of Treaty to ensure equal access to books for visually impaired and print disabled persons

The Coreper I, at a meeting on 19.03.2014, approved a compromise proposal by the Greek Presidency on ''a proposal for a Council Decision on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, of the Treaty of Marrakesh which facilitates access to published works by persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled'' [a proposal submitted by the Commission on 20.12.13, COM (2013 926)].

The Presidency proposal (doc. 7596/14) was adopted with a modification and following possible revisions by the lawyer-linguists of the Council, will be formally adopted by the latter at a forthcoming meeting.

The Treaty of Marrakech establishes a set of global rules that ensures the provision of limitations or exceptions in their national copyright laws for the benefit of persons who are blind, visually impaired or with print disabilities; and enables cross-border exchange of copies of published works in accessible formats produced under exception or limitation of the intellectual property right of any of the parties to the Treaty.

In particular, the Treaty requires of each contracting party to provide, within their national legislation on intellectual property rights, limitations or exceptions to the right of reproduction, the right of distribution, and the right of making available to the public, so as to facilitate the availability of works in accessible format copies for the benefit of beneficiary persons. The Contracting Parties may decide to limit such restrictions or exceptions in cases where copies in accessible format for those beneficiaries, are not commercially available on reasonable terms for beneficiaries in their territory.

The Treaty of Marrakech is open for signature by any party within a year of its adoption (27.06.2013) and will enter into force following its ratification by twenty parties.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired: 39 million are blind and 246 million visually impaired . The World Blind Union states that in Europe only 5% of published books in accessible formats are available for the visually impaired, while in developing countries - where 90 % of visually impaired people lives - this figure is just 1%.

This issue falls under the jurisdiction of the Intellectual Property Organization (Agency supervised by the Ministry of Culture)