The Marrakesh Treaty, signed almost 10 years ago, provides an opportunity to lift unnecessary barriers to access to information for people with disabilities, but are governments taking this up?

When governments from around the world agreed to the Marrakesh Treaty in 2013, they looked to address the fact that the way in which copyright is constructed – through extensive exclusive rights and purely nationally defined exceptions – exacerbated the fact that only a tiny share of overall published works were available in accessible formats. This is known as the book famine.

The Treaty was a response to this failure, providing for an important correction in the form of an exception or other provision ensuring that people with print disabilities, and those supporting them (such as libraries) can make and share accessible format copies, on a non-commercial basis.

Crucially, the Treaty also allowed for these to be shared across borders, helping to ensure a flow of books to people with disabilities globally.

However, despite the calls of libraries and others, the Treaty does offer some possibilities for countries, as they implement it, to impose limitations on these possibilities. This can be, for example, by obliging libraries to pay additional remuneration to rightholders, or only to share books that aren’t already commercially available.

These risk weakening the impact of the Treaty by obliging libraries and others to use resources to make additional payments, or to look for commercial copies – something for which the infrastructure does not really exist in many countries.

There are of course positive possibilities, such as to extend the provisions to help people with other disabilities.

Our Marrakesh Monitoring Report therefore looks at the laws in place, both in countries that have and have not ratified or signed the Treaty, to build an understanding of how far governments have taken the necessary steps to maximise access.

The February 2023 edition has been developed drawing on the expertise of librarians and other practitioners working with the Treaty in order to achieve its goals. We are grateful to them for their help! Please contact us if you have any questions or suggestions.