March 15, 2018

Senators Introduce Bill to Expand Access to Printed works for Blind & Visually Impaired

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of senators today introduced legislation to implement the Marrakesh Treaty and facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind or have print disabilities. The Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559) sets into motion a treaty that would address the problem of the global “book famine” by providing, with appropriate safeguards, that copyright protection should not impede the international exchange of accessible format copies of published works.  The legislation is cosponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), as well as senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).


“Those living with vision or print disabilities should not be left in the dark when seeking accessible copies of published works. This bill is the product of a broad consensus among stakeholders within the publishing, library and print disabilities communities, to encourage the creation and distribution of accessible format works, respect the rights of content creators and empower those with disabilities to access that content,” Grassley said.


““I am pleased to be working with Chairman Grassley on this important legislation that would ensure those who are blind and visually impaired have access to books and music. Access to these works should enriches all our lives – they are a source of education, information and entertainment,” Feinstein said.


“Access to books and publications for the visually impaired is severely limited in much of the world. With support from a wide range of stakeholders, U.S. ratification and implementation of this treaty will demonstrate our commitment to removing educational barriers for the blind. I am hopeful the U.S. will become a full participant in this important global framework that makes literacy a priority for everyone, regardless of disability,” Corker said.


“The United States must continue to be a leader in protecting and advancing the rights of roughly 1 billion people with disabilities to have equal and predictable access -- no matter where they live, or what language they speak -- so they can live productive, full lives with dignity and pride. Individuals with disabilities should not be barred from opportunities others take for granted. That’s why I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to join the global effort to help promulgate literary works in a format accessible to visually impaired persons across the world,” Menendez said.


"Too often, barriers exist for individuals with visual and print disabilities to obtain foreign language materials and materials from other countries in accessible formats. This bill will help reduce those barriers and ensure that individuals with visual and print disabilities have more equal access to published works," Hatch said.


"Making sure that visually impaired Americans can enjoy broad access to published works must be a core component of our copyright system. I'm proud to join Chairman Grassley and others on this consensus legislation, which will ensure that all of our citizens can enjoy the fruits of content creators around the globe," Leahy said.


Under the Marrakesh Treaty, parties are required to include exemptions and limitations in their national copyright laws to allow for the creation and distribution of accessible format copies of material for the exclusive use by blind and other print-disabled individuals.  The treaty also requires parties to provide assurances that such distribution will be limited to use by those with such disabilities to prevent copyright infringement.  The Senate is expected to consider the treaty in conjunction with the implementing legislation soon.


The Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act establishes how the United States will comply with the treaty. The legislation broadens the scope of accessible works under U.S. copyright law to include published musical works in the form of text and notation. It further creates a new section in U.S. copyright law which establishes requirements regarding the export and import of accessible format copies to authorized entities or eligible persons.


Related Materials:

·         Marrakesh Treaty Text

·         Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act Text

·         Treaty and bill summary