World Blind Union(WBU) Letter to All Governments

Posted May 20, 2014

The Marrakech treaty six months on- many signatures, but not a single ratification.

Six months ago governments put aside their differences and agreed an historic, ground-breaking treaty to help us end the “book famine” in which just a few percent of books are ever available in formats we can read. But this treaty must be ratified by at least 20 countries come into force, so that we can actually benefit from it. An un-ratified treaty is just a piece of paper.

Below is our plea to all the world’s governments to finish the job they started in Marrakech, and allow us to start the job of getting books to people who so badly need them.

Dear governments of the world,

I am writing this open letter to you in my capacity as President of the World Blind Union, on behalf of all the world’s estimated 285 million blind and partially sighted people.

Blind and partially sighted people the world over suffer from a “book famine”, in which only a few per cent of books are ever made in accessible formats we can read such as braille, large print or audio.

One of the barriers to providing a greater number of books is outdated copyright law.

Where a book has been published, but not in an accessible format, two thirds of the world’s countries do not have copyright laws that allow blind people and their organisations to make accessible format copies of such a book.
Further, if a blind person’s organisation has made such a copy, duplication would be avoided and more books made available if it could send that copy to a similar organisation in another country. However, to date that has not been possible due to outdated copyright law.

The great news is that the Marrakech Treaty, which was agreed in June 2013, should remove these legal barriers.

The Treaty should increase the number of national copyright exceptions for blind people. It should also allow the sharing across international borders of accessible books.

This treaty is fundamental for the setting up and integration of accessible reading networks across the world.

However, for the Marrakech Treaty to actually help blind people, twenty countries need first to ratify it so that it can enter into force. Even then, only blind people’s organisations in countries which have ratified can share their accessible books. Therefore, for the Treaty to make a difference, a large number of countries from around the world must sign and ratify.

Our request to you now, on behalf of blind people everywhere, is for your country to lead by example. Please ratify the Treaty speedily, and use your diplomatic influence to urge others to do the same.
In that way, we really can open a new chapter in the inclusion of blind and partially sighted people both in your country and across the globe.

Yours faithfully,

Arnt Holte
World Blind Union
World Blind Union Head Office
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M4G3E8