Fear And Loathing In WIPO's Geneva--Is Proposed Copyright Treaty Human Rights Or Expropriation

The Proposed WIPO Copyright Treaty Relating To Those Who Are Blind Or Reading Disabled Pits The Human Rights Of Those Disabled Persons Against The Rights Of Publishers And Authors... But Many Overlook The Rights Available Today. Press Release Group Intl. – May 08 2010 The 20th session of the WIPO (World International Property Organization) SCCR (Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights) will be held in Geneva, Switzerland June 21-25, 2010. The principal agenda item is the Treaty proposed by the World Blind Union (WBU) introduced by Brazil, Ecuador, and Paraguay which will drastically overhaul the 'Limitations and Exceptions' to copyright afforded to persons who are blind, visually disabled, or with some other reading-related disability. Testimony has been presented to the US Copyright Office, among other venues, that the exceptions to copyright currently available under USA and UK Copyright laws prohibit the export of works converted to Braille or digital audio (DAISY) from those countries. For example, from a US/Swiss WBU ally: "Entities using such exceptions to create accessible works often are prohibited from exporting outside of national boundaries, reducing considerably the access to works that are now in accessible formats. For example, in the United States certain authorized entities are allowed to distribute works that are accessible for the visually impaired without the permission of copyright owners, but this exception only applies to access in the United States – exports to other countries are not allowed." ... and from the RNIB in the UK: "If we make an accessible version of a book in the UK and want to send that to another English‐speaking country where they don't have the resources to make books accessible, we should be able to do that... But the (UK) copyright law as it stands doesn't allow the transfer of that accessible info. The exceptions in place in national legislations stop at the border." In fact, both USA and UK copyright law have provisions and procedures -- whereby individuals who have duly received accessible copies from Non-profits and/or non-

governmental organizations (NGOs) -- can export those Braille or DAISY materials. Indeed the authoritative WIPO 'Sullivan' study itself says such exports by individuals under US and UK copyright law are 'probably permitted'. 121AuthEnt.org, a small Braille non-profit recently started in the USA, has tried to inform persons on the multiple sides of the Treaty issue -- NGOs, publisher organizations, journalists, attorneys. etc. -- that statements like those above are misleading whether one supports or opposes the passage of the proposed treaty... They focus solely on what a Non-Profit or NGO can do and steadfastly overlook other nuances of copyright law. Another member of the same US/Swiss NGO as above said the following in US Copyright office comments: "It is arguably already the case that imports and exports are allowed under the U.S. law, although the legal uncertainty has apparently deterred people from importing or exporting works created under exceptions." Deterred? Deterred by whom? The Director-General of the Worldwide DAISY consortium maybe has the answer in his US Copyright Office comments: "D. Contracts or agreements that defeat copyright exceptions: In efforts to collaborate with publishers and obtain files suitable for conversion into accessible formats, authorized entities may be asked to agree to limit the legitimate use of the accessible materials they produce. The contract or agreement may narrow the population to be served, i.e. only people who have purchased a copy of the book, or restrict the distribution area, i.e. not to be exported outside the USA." One of the leading USA-based reading disability organizations does just that: The reason that a visually impaired individual who receives a Braille or DAISY rendition of copyrighted material from that NGO cannot send it to someone outside the USA is not because of US Copyright law but solely because of the required Membership agreement that prevents any such transfer. The NGO in its US Copyright Office Comments then ascends the high ground: "A voluntary (copyright exception) compliance regime means that accessibility can be trumped by any number of players: from technology vendors to authors to publishers, any one of whom by simply not bothering to care about the issue. Do we really want fundamental human rights of people with disabilities to depend on a chain of voluntary action by actors who fundamentally do not have an interest in accessibility? .... And this raises the central human rights question. If an exemption regime is good enough for Americans, in the largest market for English language books on the planet, why isn’t it good enough for people in other countries?" 121AuthEnt.org takes only this position: The treaty might be passed this year, in five

years, or never... We are only interested in what can be done today via interpretation of current Copyright law... To the Disability Community the issue of fundamental human rights always trumps any mercenary intellectual property interest; To the Intellectual Property community the Treaty is close to that of expropriation of private property by a banana republic... Where is David Mamet when we need him? ####