The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, adopted on June 27, 2013, has been ratified by 30 countries to date, among which Malawi. The country’s accession instrument has been recently deposited at WIPO, and the Treaty will be in force in the country in October 14, 2017.

IFLA welcomes the step forward taken by Malawi, which should eventually mean a significant improvement in access to information for the visually impaired. However, we regret the inclusion of a commercial availability test for authorised entities that requires conducting a search to acknowledge if a work is available in the market in an accessible format. Libraries would only be allowed to make accessible format copies if such a search is conducted with a negative outcome.

In a joint statement released today, IFLA, EIFL and African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) insist on the need to remove the commercial availability test from the conditions for making accessible format copies, and underline how such a requirement undermines a goal of the Marrakesh Treaty. The lack of an easily accessible and complete database would make it extremely complex to perform such a search.

As mentioned in the statement, “Malawi (…) is in a strong position to provide leadership in Africa on a domestic implementation that respects both the spirit and the letter of the Treaty. But to achieve this, restrictions such as a commercial availability test, must be removed”.

We call on decisionmakers to amend this and to aim at a reform that will effectively address the problem of the book famine in Malawi, and help its community of more than 10.000 people who are blind or visually impaired.