July 31, 2012
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND– [Excerpt via Inclusion Daily Express] The US and the EU are blocking a treaty that would give the world’s blind and visually impaired people — 90% of whom live in the developing world — easier access to published works in formats they can use.
A “treaty for blind people” has been under discussion at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo) since 2008, but negotiations have made little progress. In the latest round of talks in Geneva, which ended on Wednesday 25 July, negotiators deferred a decision on the issue once again, to the dismay of activists.
“This is not just a legal issue — for us, this is a moral issue. It’s about human rights,” said Teresa Hackett, programme manager at Electronic Information for Libraries, a non-profit group based in the Netherlands.
There are about 256 million visually impaired people in the developing world, according to an estimate by the World Health Organisation. In many rich countries, blind people have ready access to works that have been translated into braille and other accessible formats such as audio and large-print books, although, according to the EU, only 5% of books are accessible to blind people in wealthy states.
However, under existing copyright law, poorer countries can’t access those translations without getting the express permission of the copyright holder.
US and EU blocking treaty to give blind people access to books