Four years after signing the Marrakesh Treaty (introduced by the WIPO) to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled, the EU institutions finally voted for its implementation. With over 600 votes, the European Parliament adopted the final compromise on 6 July 2017. The European Council ratified the compromise on 17 July 2017. Within one year after entering into force, the member states need to implement the requirements from the EU directive. The regulation will apply directly.
The upcoming Law
After a long debate on how to implement the requirements of the Treaty, the final compromise includes two pieces of legislation: a directive and a regulation. At the centre of the new legislation, there are three main issues:
- Copyright Exceptions: All member states need to implement a copyright exception for blind people and their organisations. The exception must include in particular the rights of reproduction, communication to the public, making available to the public, distribution and lending. Therefore, the consent by the right holder will no longer be required for making or using accessible format books and other printed materials. Some member states such as Germany already have exceptions for blind and visually impaired people. However, it needs to be checked whether they comply with the new provisions with a special focus on the online use of works.
- Cross-border Access: In many states, only 1% or less than of all books available are for blind and visually impaired people. With the new provisions of the regulation, the export and import of accessible format copies within the countries that signed the Marrakesh Treaty will be facilitated. Therefore, the number of accessible format copies will hopefully increase.
- Option for Compensation: The question whether a compensation for publishers has to be paid when their books are adapted into accessible format copies, is up to the member states to decide within certain limits of the directive. This option in particular has been highly combatted by the European Blind Union (EBU). EBU argues a compensation is in contradiction with the right-to-read objectives of the Marrakesh Treaty and questions the already existing compensation rules, e.g. in Germany.