On June 28, 2018, the United States Senate ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled and passed the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559) by unanimous consent. As an organization dedicated to achieving enduring and barrier-free access to information, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) celebrates this historic moment, which comes almost five years to the day that the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) adopted the Marrakesh Treaty.
The Marrakesh Treaty requires countries to ensure minimum copyright limitations and exceptions for the creation and distribution of accessible formats and cross-border sharing of these works. Cross-border exchange is a critical feature of the treaty, which could greatly alleviate the “book famine” problem, a situation in which the National Federation of the Blind has estimated that no more than 5 percent of published works are created in an accessible format.
The Marrakesh Treaty currently has 39 contracting parties and entered into force on September 30, 2016, with Canada’s ratification. Countries from every region of the world, with varying levels of development, have ratified the treaty: Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Israel, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay. Other countries are also moving toward ratification and the European Union is expected to complete its process for ratification later this year.
“The Marrakesh Treaty promotes information access for those in developing countries as well as in the United States,” said Mary Ann Mavrinac, president of the Association of Research Libraries and vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries. “Individuals with print disabilities in the United States will see significant benefits from cross-border exchange of English language materials with Australia and Canada, as well as exchange of foreign-language works from other Marrakesh Treaty parties, including nearly 50,000 accessible items from Argentina.”
Ed Van Gemert, chair of ARL’s Advocacy and Public Policy Committee and vice provost for libraries at the University of Wisconsin–Madison said, “The Marrakesh Treaty will provide concrete benefits, opening up a world of knowledge, to those who are visually impaired or have other disabilities. Only a tiny fraction of published works are made in accessible formats and this treaty will promote access to information.”
Now that the Senate has acted, the House of Representatives must pass the implementing legislation and the bill would go to President Trump for signature. ARL applauds the US Senate for unanimously approving the Marrakesh Treaty and urges the House of Representatives to pass the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act.
About the Association of Research Libraries
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in Canada and the US whose mission is to advance research, learning, and scholarly communication. The Association fosters the open exchange of ideas and expertise, promotes equity and diversity, and pursues advocacy and public policy efforts that reflect the values of the library, scholarly, and higher education communities. ARL forges partnerships and catalyzes the collective efforts of research libraries to enable knowledge creation and to achieve enduring and barrier-free access to information. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.