Five years on from its signature in 2013, the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled is proving its power. Having entered into force faster than any other copyright treaty in the last forty years, governments continue to ask to sign up.

The Treaty, which continues to be strongly supported by libraries, removes the obligation to seek permission from rightholders before making and sharing copies of books and other materials in formats which allow people with print disabilities to read them as easily as anyone else. If implemented well, it imposes only minimal controls on this possibility.

Progress Around the World

Recent weeks have seen Ghana, the Dominican Republic and Jordan all ratify the Treaty (i.e. go through the necessary domestic processes to confirm their signatures). They join a growing network of countries whose citizens and institutions can benefit from new possibilities to make, share and receive accessible format copies of works.

Elsewhere, the countdown to the entry into force of European legislation continues, with the key day on 12 October, 80 days from now. This will see a significant number of works in key world languages become available. IFLA’s analysis of progress on adapting national laws shows how things are advancing.  

There was a key step in the United States at the end of June, where the Senate voted in favour of American ratification. Meanwhile in Japan, both houses of parliament (the National Diet) have also indicated their wish to ratify.

Finally, the South African parliament has insisted on rejecting efforts by some to postpone legislation which would have allowed the government to join the growing number of countries who are ready to implement the Treaty.

But More to Do

If all of the currently planned ratifications succeed, the number of states parties (members) of the Marrakesh Treaty will almost double.

However, it remains the case that the real impact on people with print disabilities depends heavily on what is done at the national, and even local level.

A first need is for good government legislation. In too many countries, laws continue to make it more difficult than it should be to enjoy the new possibilities created by the Treaty. Obligations to register as an ‘authorised entity’ (i.e. an institution which is permitted to make use of Treaty rights), or heavy reporting requirements, are still in place in Europe, for example

The Section on Libraries serving persons with Print Disabilities will, in its open session at the World Library and Information Congress, focus on national implementation.

Secondly, libraries themselves will need to feel comfortable and confident in using the new possibilities. IFLA will be launching a new guide at the World Library and Information Congress, providing answers to key questions individual libraries will need to answer.

Finally, while the Marrakesh Treaty will break down barriers, libraries providing services to people with print disabilities and other special needs require sufficient resources to do their jobs.

As highlighted by the Development and Access to Information report, information can be an enabler, allowing people to realise other rights.

If we are to realise the goal of giving people with print disabilities equal possibilities to access information, we need action at all levels, as well as better laws and funding. IFLA and its members continue to support work to achieve this.

Find out more about the Marrakesh Treaty.