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ARL Urges US to Ratify Marrakesh Treaty, Improve Access to Publications for Visually Impaired

image CC-BY-NC-ND by Dominique Archambault

Today, March 15, 2018, the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559) was introduced in the US Senate by Judiciary Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Feinstein (D-CA), Foreign Relations Committee Chair Corker (R-TN), Ranking Member Menendez (D-NJ), and Senators Hatch (R-UT), Harris (D-CA), and Leahy (D-VT), to ratify and implement the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled.

The Marrakesh Treaty, concluded in June 2013 and signed by the United States in October 2013, provides minimum standards for limitations and exceptions to copyright law to create and distribute accessible formats for people with print disabilities and allows for the cross-border exchange of these formats. Cross-border exchange is a critical feature of the treaty and could greatly alleviate what is known as the “book famine,” a situation in which the National Federation of the Blind estimates that no more than 5 percent of published works are created in an accessible format.

The Marrakesh Treaty, which now has 35 contracting parties, 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, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Israel, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, 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, United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay.

“Introduction of this legislation is a welcome step in protecting the rights of individuals with print disabilities,” said Mary Ann Mavrinac, president of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries. “Not only will the Marrakesh Treaty promote information access for those in developing countries, people in the United States will also 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, “Ratification of 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. It is now time for Congress to act swiftly to ratify and implement the Marrakesh Treaty.”

The Association of Research Libraries strongly supports the Marrakesh Treaty as critical in improving access to publications for the blind, visually impaired, and those otherwise print disabled regardless of where they live in the world. ARL urges the Senate 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 the US and Canada. ARL’s mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.

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