Better access to books for the blind

95% of the world's books are not available to the blind. The EU is finally getting rid of some copyright restrictions on books and such - especially when it comes to cross-border exchange of these works.

How did we get here?

More than 95% of the books published in the world are never published in a way that makes them actually readable or "consumable" for the blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled persons. But: Persons with disabilities need to have access to information to be able to study, work, read literature, participate in cultural life and in society in general - just like everyone else. This is why the ‘Marrakesh Treaty to Improve Access to information for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled’ lists some copyright exceptions. These will make it:

  1. easier to convert books or copyrighted works into accessible formats for the blind and
  2. send them to other countries without the extra hassle of getting copyright permission.

This way, access to information for print disabled people including people with dyslexia, will be improved. Now the EU just needs to ratify this international treaty by passing this prosposed regulation. Easy, hm?


Why is this important for me?

If you are blind or visually impaired, this is great news as the EU is finally complying with the previously explained Marrakesh Treaty for easier access to books from all over the world in appropriate formats. Even if you are not blind: This proposal is about a more inclusive society and equal rights for information and access to literature for all citizens.


What's the content?

The proposal by former EU Commissioner for Digital Society Günther Oettinger will make sure that the EU is in line with the international Marrakesh Treaty that already lays out the copyright exemptions. This is why the actual regulation is only very short and cute: Three whole pages.

Since the commercial book market failed to provide enough accessible formats of books the Marrakesh treaty was established and cross-border book exchanges are made legal. E.g. organisations for the blind will be able to send German Braille books to any third country that also ratified the treaty without having to go through any administrative hassle due to possible copyright restrictions.


What's happening with this legislation in the future?

Members of the European Parliament's Legal Committee were working on this porposal. They backed it and adopted their position in March 2017. Negotiations with the Council were wrapped up with an agreement in May 2017. Now the regulation needs to be formally adopted by the Council, the EP already did so in early July 2017.


Other Bills:

Making products & services more accessible for disabled people

Cross-border portability: Access to streaming services from abroad

A New Copyright Regime for Europe

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