On September 30, 2016 the Marrakesh Treaty — the international agreement to improve access to copyrighted works for the blind and visually impaired — enters into force. The treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled has been discussed at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since 2008 and was signed in Marrakesh, Morocco in June 2013. It was finally ratified by the required 20 states, and today, three months later, it goes into effect.
On the occasion of the entry into force of the Marrakesh Treaty, a statement from African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) Director General Fernando Dos Santos reads as follows:
“Regrettably, only Mali has ratified the Treaty in Africa. ARIPO therefore takes this opportunity to encourage all its Member States and Africa at large to expedite the process of either ratifying or acceding to the Marrakesh Treaty and domesticating the Treaty in their national laws.”
In fact, other than Mali, Tunisia is the only other African nation to deposit its instrument of ratification to the Marrakesh Treaty at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The Treaty enters into force for Tunisia on December 7, 2016. The Marrakesh Treaty (MVT) forms part of the body of international copyright treaties administered by WIPO. It has a clear humanitarian and social development dimension and its main goal is to create a set of mandatory limitations and exceptions for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired, and otherwise print disabled (VIPs).
The reality that informed the Marrakesh Treaty is that there are 285 million 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.
The WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) was set up in the 1998-1999 biennium to examine matters of substantive law or harmonization in the field of copyright and related rights. It is composed of: member states of WIPO and/or of the Berne Union observers (certain member states of the United Nations (UN) which are non-members of WIPO and/or the Berne Union, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations). SCCR usually holds two sessions per year with the next meeting scheduled for November 14 – 18, 2016. Major topics on SCCR Agenda include: Protection of broadcasting organizations; Limitations and exceptions: Libraries and archives, Education and research institutions, Persons with other disabilities.
MVT requires Contracting Parties to introduce a standard set of limitations and exceptions to copyright rules in order to permit reproduction, distribution and making available of published works in formats designed to be accessible to VIPs, and to permit exchange of these works across borders by organizations that serve those beneficiaries.
The Treaty clarifies that beneficiary persons are those affected by a range of disabilities that interfere with the effective reading of printed material. The broad definition includes persons who are blind, visually impaired, or reading disabled or persons with a physical disability that prevents them from holding and manipulating a book.