Australia urged to ease copyright restrictions on accessible books

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Wednesday, 23 April 2014 12:24pm

On  World Book Day, the Australian Government has been called on to ease the copyright restrictions which reduce the number of books that are available to blind, vision impaired and print disabled readers.

Around the world copyright law, which protects the rights of authors, has inadvertently worked to restrict the number of publications which can be reproduced in braille and other alternative formats. The World Blind Union estimates that just 1-7% of all books published are made available to blind readers.

In 2013, 186 countries came together to find a global solution to this problem. The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, was published and signed by 51 countries, excluding Australia.

Countries that have signed the treaty are obliged to add an exception to copyright law which allows alternative accessible versions of books and other documents to be produced without infringing on the rights of authors. Restrictions on the importation and exportation of these alternative versions would also be lifted, making it far easier for readers around the world to have equal access to material.

Although the treaty was signed by 51 countries, it has yet to be ratified (turned into law) by any of the signatory countries. It is hoped that Australia will lead the way by signing the treaty and changing Australian copyright law accordingly.

The call has been led by Maryann Diamond, General Manager of Advocacy and Engagement at Vision Australia and former president of the World Blind Union. She said, “On behalf of Vision Australia I urge the Australian Government to ensure Australia takes a leading role in ending the book famine by signing and ratifying this important treaty.”

Media Access Australia’s CEO Alex Varley supports Diamond’s request. “The barriers to access are many and publishers and producers should be looking at ways to expand their markets to capture the growing number of people using alternate print formats,” said Varley.  “Copyright restrictions work counter to this idea and should be removed.”

We await the Australian Government’s response.

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