The treaty adopted almost four years ago in Marrakesh allowing for exceptions to copyright for the benefit of visually impaired people was hailed as a victory for human rights over private rights. However, as the European Union is preparing to ratify the treaty, according to a civil society group report, intense lobbying by the publishing industry is influencing the debate and might diminish the hard-gained ground in the treaty on copyright exceptions. The World Blind Union, meanwhile, said it finds the report “revealing and shocking”.
The 2013 Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled sought to address the issue of cross-border exchange of special format books. Prior to the treaty, due to international copyright obligations and in the absence of dedicated exceptions to copyright in national laws, it was very difficult to share special formal books between countries, which was creating what was described as “a book famine” in developing countries for people with visual impairment.

According to corporate European observatory

According to the Corporate Europe Observatory, Germany and the United Kingdom “have been pushing amendments that risk to undermine the provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty.” For example, the report says that “The German government in particular has been pushing hard to include strong publisher compensation rights in the Marrakesh Treaty, which exist in a controversial draft form as part of a separate EU level directive, the “Copyright in the Digital Single Market” (DSM) directive.”
Two worrying proposed agreement
In the context of the upcoming 23 March vote on the Marrakesh Treaty in the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs and a relevant European Council decision expected on 22 March, the Corporate Europe Observatory said two elements of the proposed amendments are particularly worrying.
The first proposed provision is for publishers’ compensation “whenever an organization turns a document into an accessible format, which would make their production even more expensive.”The second is a clause on commercial availability. The issue of commercial availability caused dissension during the negotiations leading up to the Marrakesh Treaty (IPW, WIPO, and 25 June 2013) and (IPW, WIPO, 1 July 2013).
Yet another worry, according to CEO, is “a proposal that there should be a mandatory register of ‘authorized entities’ who would be the only ones able to make accessible-format books.

Most special format books produced in EU

Without the active and effective sharing of these books which the Marrakesh Treaty aims to promote, millions of mainly poor print-disabled people in the global south will not gain access to these resources in key languages such as English, Spanish, and French.”

CEO underlines the importance of the EU rules implementing the Marrakesh Treaty as it “will be used as template for others, including in the US, where the ratification process is quite advanced but also coming under strong industry pressure.

Revealing shocking reports

This is a revealing and shocking report of how the copyright lobby acts behind the closed door of the council to influence EU members state position, even to the extent of copy and paste, against the right to read of millions of blind and visually impaired persons that is clearly backed up by international disability law and in general the defense of common good. CEO “is a research and campaigning group to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby group in EU policy making.”