The Marrakesh Treaty on accessible works for the blind and vision impaired has been referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) – the first step towards formal ratification.
The Treaty aims to increase the range of accessible materials available to the blind and vision impaired. Currently only 5-7% of published works are available in accessible format, and the percentages are even lower in developing countries. The Treaty addresses this issue in two ways, by ensuring that the blind and vision impaired (BVIP) can make accessible copies, and that those copies can be exchanged across borders.
While the Nation Interest Analysis (NIA) states that Australia currently complies with the Treaty obligations, it notes the Government intends to make some technical adjustments to ensure that the provisions can flexibly adjust to the needs of the sector.
One area in which it is not clear that we are currently compliant is the bypass of Technological Protection Measures (TPMs). Bypassing a TPM is a criminal offence, unless there is an exception.* The TPM review is already long overdue and we strongly support resolution of this matter for BVIP and other affected interest groups.
According to the NIA Australia is planning on lodging a notification that will mean that accesibility exceptions will remain subject to commercial testing. That means that you cannot make an accessible copy if there is an equivalent accessible copy commercially available. This will support commercial solutions to the problem while enabling BVIP and institutions assisting them to address the gaping holes in the current market.
The ADA congratulates the Government on the move to ratification. As the NIA states:
Ratification and implementation of the treaty is in Australia’s national interest. It provides equitable access to information to people who are print disabled while balancing the commercial interests of rights holders. Ratification of the Treaty by Australia will mark an important advance to help overcome the significant barriers that limit the availability of print accessible literature to people who are blind and vision impaired and that precludes these Australians from full participation in society…. Early ratification of the Treaty provides an opportunity for Australia to be a global leader in facilitating access to accessible format works.
*The exceptions are prescribed in schedule 10A of the Copyright Regulations 1969. Currently there is an exception for conversion done under the statutory licence, but no exception for accessible conversions done under s200AB.