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President Obama Sends Marrakesh Treaty to Senate for Ratification

image CC-BY-NC-ND by Dominique Archambault

On February 10, 2016, the Obama Administration sent the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled to the US Senate for ratification. 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.

The 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 ability to import works from other English-speaking countries would aid in growing the collection of accessible formats in the United States and avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts in creation of these formats. Additionally, the Marrakesh Treaty allows the import of works in other languages for those in the United States who do not speak English as a first language or for those learning a foreign language. The treaty would also provide significant benefits to those in developing countries, which generally have an even smaller number of accessible formats available, who could import works from the relatively larger collections in the United States and elsewhere.

President Obama’s Message to the Senate notes that the treaty “advances the national interest of the United States in promoting the protection and enjoyment of creative works. The Marrakesh Treaty lays a foundation, in a manner consistent with existing international copyright standards, for opening up a world of knowledge for persons with print disabilities by improving their access to published works.”

ARL applauds the Obama Administration’s transmission of the Marrakesh Treaty to the United States Senate and urges swift ratification of this treaty. The Marrakesh Treaty needs 20 ratifications to enter into force; it currently has 14 ratifications and ARL urges the United States to demonstrate its leadership in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities by becoming one of the first 20 countries to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty.

As previously noted by the Library Copyright Alliance, US law complies with the Marrakesh Treaty and can be ratified without changes to current law. The transmission of the Marrakesh Treaty to the Senate, however, included proposed changes to US. law. ARL looks forward to reviewing these proposed amendments, which are not yet publicly available.

This post originally appeared on the ARL Policy Notes blog on February 11, 2016. 

About the Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 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 http://www.arl.org/.

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