The European Parliament today adopted the report Unlocking the potential of the cultural and creative industries with an overwhelming majority. The report contains the following two articles:
69. Stresses the need finally to address the ‘book famine’ experienced by visually impaired and print-disabled people; reminds the Commission and Member States of their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to take all appropriate measures to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy access to cultural materials in accessible formats, and to ensure that laws protecting IPR do not constitute an unreasonable or discriminatory barrier to access by people with disabilities to cultural materials;
70. Calls on the Commission to work actively and positively within the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to agree on a binding legal norm based on the treaty proposal drafted by the World Blind Union and tabled at WIPO in 2009;
This was a win in the fight to address the ”book famine” that visually impaired people are experiencing. It means that the European Parliament has strongly expressed its support for a binding international treaty under the auspices of WIPO. This is what organizations like the European Blind Union and the World Blind Union have been asking for for a long time.
But the real opposition to addressing the book famine comes from the Commission and the governments of the Member States. The next step will have to be to convince the Member State governments to change their stance and start supporting a WIPO treaty.
This is an unusual political issue, in that everybody that learns about the issue agrees, once they have become aware of it. The only reason the book publishers have been able to block a treaty that would solve the problem, is that they have been able to keep their lobbying efforts out of the public spotlight. If we can change that, we will win in the Member States as well.
The report that the European Parliament adopted today is not legislative, so it is not legally binding in itself. But it is a step in the right direction, and an opportunity to raise awareness and put pressure on the Member States.
Persons with disabilities have a right to take part in cultural life on an equal basis with others. The governments of the Member States must take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy access to cultural materials in accessible formats.
A binding WIPO treaty is the right way forward. This is now the official opinion of the European Parliament.
9 november 2010: Supporting a treaty on books for the blind
13 februari 2011: An amendment for books for the blind
18 februari 2011: Briefing: A WIPO treaty on books for print disabled
28 februari 2011: Books for the blind in JURI: Win!
17 mars 2011: Books for the blind in CULT: Win!