EU takes positive steps to end “book famine”

16 September 2016

EDF welcomes the European Commission’s proposal to implement the Marrakesh Treaty into EU law. It now has to be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council. If there is an agreement, the EU will ratify the Marrakesh Treaty facilitating access to published works for persons with are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled, including persons with autism. EDF calls on the EU to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty without further delay and end the book famine for millions of persons with disabilities who are denied access to published works against their rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) that the EU has ratified.

A week ago, the European Court of Justice’s Advocate General published his opinion concerning the EU’s competence to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty concluding that it is “exclusive competence of the EU” to ratify the Treaty. This effectively responds to the argument of “lack of competence” that some Member States were using to block the ratification of the Treaty by the EU and is another positive step forward.

As mentioned in the European Commission’s proposal, if the EU ratifies the Marrakesh Treaty, the EU and its Member States will be required to allow exceptions or limitations to copyright for the benefit of print disabled people. They will also be required to allow the cross-border exchange of special format copies of books including audio books and other print material among the countries that are parties to the Treaty.

To better understand the book famine, it is worth mentioning that over 95% of the books published in the world are never published in a way that is accessible to blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled persons. The lack of information in accessible formats for all persons with the disabilities has put them at a huge disadvantage. Like everyone else, persons with disabilities need to have access to information to be able to study, work, read literature, participate in cultural life and in society in general.

The European Commission’s recognises that the proposed regulation is also in line with the EU’s obligations deriving from the CRPD that the EU has ratified. It also states that the ratification of the Treaty was one of the recommendations of the UN to the EU after its review on its work on the rights of persons with disabilities last year.

It remains to be seen how the discussions will go at the European Parliament and the Council and if they will –hopefully- adopt the European Commission’s proposal as such.

Find more about EDF’s position on the Marrakesh Treaty here


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