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Two More Parties to the Marrakesh Treaty: Argentina and Singapore

Last Updated on April 2, 2015, 1:12 pm ET

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled now has eight ratifications or accessions,* with Argentina and Singapore being the latest countries to deposit their notifications with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  Countries previously ratifying or acceding to the Marrakesh Treaty include: India, El Salvador, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Mali, and Paraguay.  Twenty ratifications or accessions are necessary for the Marrakesh Treaty to enter into force.

The Marrakesh Treaty sets forth minimum standards for limitations and exceptions to facilitate access to accessible format works.  It would also permit cross-border sharing of these accessible formats, allowing countries to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts and resources in the creation of these accessible works.  Additionally, the Treaty would facilitate importation of works created in other languages.

With eighty total signatories to the treaty, hopefully more countries will join the eight current parties to the Marrakesh Treaty and swiftly ratify.  The United States, which signed the treaty on October 2, 2013, should ratify the treaty to help end the “book famine” where only a small fraction of books — estimated by the National Federation for the Blind at no more than five percent — are created in an accessible format.  While the United States has robust limitations and exceptions to allow for the creation and distribution of accessible format works, many countries, particularly those in the developing world, do not and their collections of accessible formats are even smaller than in the United States.  Additionally, persons with print disabilities in the United States would benefit from ratification, not only from the ability to import works from other English-speaking countries, but also because persons who speak other languages or are learning new languages — for example, Spanish, French, Russian or Chinese — would be able to import works in these languages from other countries.

*Countries that signed the Marrakesh Treaty during the one-year period in which it was open for signature must ratify the treaty.  Ratification is a two-step process where a country will sign the treaty, signaling that it agrees with the treaty and intends to ratify.  While a signature does not create a binding legal obligation and does not commit a country to ratification, it obliges the country to not commit acts that would undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.  Countries that did not sign the Marrakesh Treaty can become a party to the treaty through accession, a one-step ratification.