Copyright win for the blind

The visually impaired community is celebrating a victory over the copyright industry, after the EU agreed to introduce exceptions for blind and visually impaired people.

‘We’re delighted the EU has come as far as it has on the issue,’ says Penny Hartin, CEO of the World Blind Union. ‘This is a big deal for the blind in the EU and across the world.’

In May the European Council and Parliament approved the directive and regulation to implement the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty, which aims to increase the availability of books in accessible formats through copyright exceptions.

The EU signed the treaty back in 2014, but had failed to implement it due to pressure from publishers and lobbying organizations that sought to add caveats, and to shift the debate from human rights to a business issue.

One of their objectives was to include compensation for publishers who abide by the treaty, a measure that blind people saw as a tax on their disability.

The EU produces a significant share of books in accessible formats. The Marrakesh Treaty is particularly important for visually impaired people in the Global South, where accessible materials can be limited or non-existent.

The directive and regulation will now be written into law by all EU national parliaments – with repercussions far beyond the union.