Appeared in the Toronto Star on July 13, 2013 as The “Miracle in Marrakesh” Provides a New Path for Digital Access Negotiators from around the world gathered in Marrekesh, Morocco late last month for a diplomatic conference aimed at concluding a new United Nations treaty to improve access to copyrighted […]
Post Tagged with: "WIPO"
After years of discussions and repeated efforts to thwart or water down a treaty for the visually impaired, delegates in Morocco reached agreement late Tuesday on a treaty. A draft of the text is available here.
Earlier this month, I wrote about a diplomatic conference in Morocco designed to finalize a much-needed copyright treaty for the visually impaired. The column noted that the treaty seeks to do two things: first, it establishes minimum standards for copyright limitations and exceptions for the visually impaired. Second, the treaty would facilitate the export of accessible works.
The conference is now in its second week with growing fears that there will be no deal. The major hold-out appears to be the United States, which is blocking consensus on a range of issues. According to documents released over the weekend, the primary source of the U.S. opposition comes from the motion picture association, which has engaged in months of behind-the-scenes lobbying designed to dismantle the treaty. For example, the MPA is trying to block the inclusion of a fair use/fair dealing provision, despite the fact that many countries (led by the U.S.) already have such a rule.
Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore tabled the WIPO Internet Treaties (the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty) earlier this week in the House of Commons, starting the process of Canadian ratification of the treaties. The move does not come as a surprise since Bill C-11, which received royal assent just over one year ago, was designed to bring ensure Canadian law conformed to the treaty requirements.
While there were some suggestions that the next step is formal notification with WIPO in Geneva, there are actually several steps required in Canada that will likely mean the treaties won’t be in force in Canada until early 2014 (I wrote about the treaty ratification process in 2008). First, the treaties are subject to a waiting period of 21 sitting days. During that period, MPs may debate the treaties in the House, raise questions, or bring motions related to the treaty. The 21 sitting day period started on June 12th. Since the House is scheduled to break for the summer next week, the period will not be completed until the first week of October. Once this process is completed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs may then seek legal authority, through an Order in Council, for Canada to prepare instruments of ratification of the two treaties. Once the instruments of ratification are deposited with WIPO, there is a further three month delay from the date of deposit.
New technologies have opened the door to greater access for millions of people who are visually impaired, yet copyright law frequently stands in the way. This is particularly true in the developing world, where digital works are often unavailable due to legal restrictions. My weekly technology law column (Ottawa Citizen version, homepage version) notes that on June 17, delegates from around the world will gather in Marrakesh, Morocco for a diplomatic conference to negotiate the final text on a new United Nations treaty that is designed to improve access to copyrighted works for people who are blind or have other perceptual disabilities.
The Treaty for the Visually Impaired, which has been the subject of years of discussion at the World Intellectual Property Organization, seeks to address the access problem in two ways.