Doctorow's plea for disabled rights from WIPO, Geneva

cory doctorow
28 May 2009


I am attending a meeting in Geneva of the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO). This evening the United States government, in
combination with other high income countries in "Group B" is seeking to
block an agreement to discuss a treaty for persons who are blind or
have other reading disabilities.

The proposal for a treaty is supported by a large number of civil
society NGOs, the World Blind Union, the National Federation of the
Blind in the US, the International DAISY Consortium, Recording for the
Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D), Bookshare.Org, and groups
representing persons with reading disabilities all around the world.

The main aim of the treaty is to allow the cross-border import
and export of digital copies of books and other copyrighted works in
formats that are accessible to persons who are blind, visually
impaired, dyslexic or have other reading disabilities, using special
devices that present text as refreshable braille, computer generated
text to speech, or large type. These works, which are expensive to
make, are typically created under national exceptions to copyright law
that are specifically written to benefit persons with disabilities...

The opposition from the United States and other high income
countries is due to intense lobbying from a large group of publishers
that oppose a "paradigm shift," where treaties would protect consumer
interests, rather than expand rights for copyright owners.

The Obama Administration was lobbied heavily on this issue,
including meetings with high level White House officials. Assurances
coming into the negotiations this week that things were going in the
right direction have turned out to be false, as the United States
delegation has basically read from a script written by lobbyists for
publishers, extolling the virtues of market based solutions, ignoring
mountains of evidence of a "book famine" and the insane legal barriers
to share works.

Follow the story on BoingBoing.

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