The Republic of Kenya joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1971. Kenya acceded to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works on 11th March 1993 and the Convention entered into force on 11th June 1993. The Convention was domesticated by the Copyright Act Cap 130 of the Law of Kenya. It is imperative that Kenya follows the international community in trying to realise the right to equal access owed to the visually impaired community on a global scale by ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (MVT).
The reality that informed the Marrakesh Treaty is that there are 285 million visually impaired persons (VIPs) in the world and 90% of them are in developing countries with less than 5% of printed materials in accessible formats. In addition, there are only 57 national copyright laws with exceptions that specifically cater for VIPs. 20 ratifications/accessions needed for Marrakesh to enter into force and there are currently 17 ratifications and accessions to date with others in the pipeline.
The Member States who have ratified/acceded to Marrakesh are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, El Salvador, India, Israel, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay. 3 months after 20 Members join Treaty will enter into force. Marrakesh Secretariat activities: Regional MVT programs for copyright officials; Starting regional workshops on implementation with stakeholder organizations; Legislative assistance to Member States Information point on MVT.
Once acceding to the treaty, Kenya will have to be wise about the ways in which it chooses to implement the provisions in the Marrakesh Treaty, for if it is not then the entire exercise might very well amount to zero. Merely signing and ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty will not be enough. In implementing the Marrakesh Treaty, Kenya must take into account several contentious issues namely, Kenya would need to make use of certain avenues the Marrakesh Treaty has for the realisation of its rights through alternative measures, such as bypassing the need for authorised entities to act as middle-men in the importation of accessible format reading materials, and excluding the ‘commercial availability’ requirement from its national legislation. If it does not make these tactful decisions, then its accession to the Marrakesh Treaty will greatly been watered down and it will probably fail to rectify the wrongs of the current copyright legislation.