Australia signs treaty to boost access to books

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Monday, 1 July 2013 16:28pm

People who are blind or vision impaired will have increased access to books and other print media after an international copyright treaty was signed. The treaty, signed by members of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Morocco last week, will allow signatories to make exceptions to copyright laws within their country so that accessible alternative copies such as Braille, large print or audio books can be created.

To access print media, blind and vision impaired people require such as large print or audio alternatives to be made. Copyright laws often restrict the production of accessible copies of published works (printed or otherwise) and sharing these across organisations overseas. However, theTreaty to Improve Access to Published Works  for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled will allow accessible copies and sharing to occur without permission from the copyright holders.

Article 2a of the treaty defines the word 'works':

"'works' means literary and artistic works within the meaning of Article 2(1) of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, in the form of text, notation and/or related illustrations, whether published or otherwise made publicly available in any media."

Australia already has some exceptions for institutions such as universities to make accessible versions under the Copyright Act 1968. However, Australia’s signing of the treaty will pave the way to specific laws that allow accessible versions of published works to be made whenever they are needed.

The treaty has been met with resistance by many copyright holders around the world, including members of the movie industry in the USA who value protecting infringements on artistic works. The treaty includes some restrictions to provide safeguards for copyright holders.

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