19 March 2018
Giving Access in the Arab World: IFLA Speaks at Dubai Workshop on the Marrakesh Treaty
The Marrakesh Treaty, which aims to remove unnecessary copyright-related barriers to making and sharing accessible copies of books. To date, only two Arab-language countries have ratified this, meaning that most people in the region with print disabilities continue to struggle to access knowledge and literature. At a workshop in Dubai, organised by the Ministry of Economy of the United Arab Emirates and the World Intellectual Property Organisation, IFLA called for progress, both in legislation and on the ground.
Following its signature in 2013, the Marrakesh Treaty entered into force faster than any other copyright-related text from the World Intellectual Property Organisation in the last forty years. A steady flow of countries are now ratifying the Treaty, opening up collections of accessible-format works to people with print disabilities in other countries, as well as given their own citizens new possibilities.
In the Arab world, only two countries – Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates – have ratified. More need to do so in order to benefit those who cannot read standard format books, and the libraries that save them. Thanks to the wide spread of the Arabic language, the possibilities created by Marrakesh for cross-border sharing of works are particularly important.
Hala Essalmawi, Attorney at Law and Intellectual Property Officer at the Library of Alexandria, Egypt, therefore attended a workshop in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, at the invitation of the UAE Economy Ministry and the World Intellectual Property Organisation.
She set out the work that the Library of Alexandria – and libraries around the world – are doing to ensure that everyone has access, and the limitations caused by a lack of accessible format works. Libraries were doing their best to create new copies, but this was expensive and difficult. The opportunity to share copies, including across borders, would be transformative.
The current situation created discrimination against people with print disabilities, and prevented them from fulfilling their duty to learn, as set out in scripture. It was imperative to pass the necessary laws to ratify the Treaty, and to do so in a way that did not create new barriers to access, for example by obliging libraries to make supplementary payments to publishers, or check on whether a copy of a book in the right format is on sale first.
IFLA continues to encourage all governments to ratify the Treaty in a way that maximises access, and so build fairer, more inclusive knowledge societies.
Read more about the Marrakesh Treaty and libraries.