Marrakesh Treaty: books for persons who are blind or visually impaired


Picture of a pair of hands scanning a book in braille.

On June 27, 2013, members of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) signed the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (MVT). It’s intended to create a set of mandatory limitations and exceptions to copyright rules for the benefit of all those affected by disabilities that interfere with the reading of printed material.

The treaty came into force on 30 September 2016. It requires all signatory countries to:

  • Permit the reproduction, distribution and making available of published works in formats designed to be accessible to the people the treaty is intended to benefit.

  • Allow the exchange of such works across borders by organizations that serve those beneficiaries


Why is the Marrakesh Treaty important?

  • 253 million people worldwide are visually impaired (source: World Health Organization, 2018).

  • The World Health Organization estimates that less than 10% of all published materials can be read by blind or visually impaired people.

  • The lack of accessible books is a real barrier to education and independent living.

Millions of people around the world have no access to published information, especially in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Books made in accessible formats, usually by libraries and organizations for the visually impaired, couldn’t be shared across national borders before the treaty, because national copyright laws didn’t allow them to be distributed internationally. Copyright law has historically been a barrier to access to reading material for print-disabled people. The Marrakesh Treaty is a great achievement by thousands of visually impaired people, librarians and NGOs, who have worked for over a decade to achieve a legally binding international treaty.


Stevie Wonder talking about the importance of the Marrakesh Treaty


Putting the Marrakesh Treaty into action: Accessible Books Consortium (ABC)

The Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) is a public-private partnership led by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It aims to make the Marrakesh VIP Treaty effective at an operational level. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of books produced worldwide in accessible formats – such as braille, audio, e-text or large print – and to make them available to people who are blind, have impaired vision or are otherwise print disabled. The ABC consortium offers a wide range of services:

  • ABC Global Book Service: provides an online catalogue that allows libraries and organizations for the blind to search and make requests for accessible digital books free of charge.

  • Accessible publishing: promotes the production of born accessible’ works by publishers, meaning books that are usable immediately on publication by both sighted people and those who are print disabled. We provide guidelines on how to produce ‘born accessible’ works and present an annual award for outstanding achievements in the field of accessible publishing.

  • Capacity building: ABC provides training and technical assistance in the production and distribution of books in accessible formats. It also provides funding for the production of accessible educational materials in national languages at primary, secondary and university levels.


Looking for more?

Here’s a list of additional sources:

● WIPO/Marrakesh Treaty:

https://www.wipo.int/marrakesh_treaty/en/

● Summary of the Marrakesh Treaty:

https://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/marrakesh/summary_marrakesh.htm

● Main Provisions and Benefits of the Marrakesh Treaty in different languages:

https://www.wipo.int/publications/en/details.jsp?id=404

● ABC Accessible Books Consortium:

https://www.accessiblebooksconsortium.org/portal/en/index.html

● ABC Global book service:

https://www.accessiblebooksconsortium.org/globalbooks/en/

● ABC’s accessible publishing resources:

https://www.accessiblebooksconsortium.org/publishing/en/

● Online sources of accessible books, organized by country (from both libraries and commercial providers):

https://www.accessiblebooksconsortium.org/sources/en/

● World Blind Union’s list of useful links to other organizations and services that may be helpful resources for people who are blind or partially sighted:

https://worldblindunion.org/fr-resources-useful-links/useful-links/

● Euro Blind Q&A about the Marrakesh Treaty, its importance and the discussion process behind it: http://www.euroblind.org/newsletter/2017/july-september/en/questions-and-answers-marrakesh-treaty


Here is the list of contracting parties:

Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, Comoros, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, European Union (EU), Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.

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