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Commissioner Barnier welcomes new Treaty ensuring equal access to books for visually impaired and print disabled persons

The European Commission welcomed yesterday the adoption of the Marrakech Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). The adoption follows two weeks of negotiations at a WIPO Diplomatic Conference in Marrakech in which the EU played an active role to facilitate access to protected works by visually impaired persons within the existing international copyright framework.

Commissioner Barnier stated: "Great news today: our collective effort has made it possible to adopt a new international treaty that means that finally, the visually impaired and print-disabled community will be able to have access to the same books as other people. For too long, this community has been denied the access to knowledge and culture they are entitled to in exactly the same way as everyone else”.

The Marrakech Treaty will require signatory members to introduce copyright exceptions similar to those that already exist in the EU. Moreover, it provides for ways to exchange special format copies across borders. The Treaty builds on international copyright conventions and has been designed to respect the rights of authors and to encourage their creativity.

Commissioner Barnier continued: "I have made a clear commitment to fight discrimination of visually impaired and print disabled persons. Today we have taken a major step in the right direction. The Marrakech Treaty is a great success.”


The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is the United Nations agency dedicated to the use of intellectual property (patents, copyright, trademarks, designs, etc.) as a means of stimulating innovation and creativity.

Between 17 and 28 June 2013, WIPO held a Diplomatic Conference in Marrakech to conclude a Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. The new Treaty creates a mandatory exception to copyright that allows organisations for blind people to produce, distribute and make available accessible format copies to visually impaired persons without the authorisation of the rightholder. It also allows for cross-border exchange of these copies, subject to the so-called three-step test requirement that ensures that the rights of rightholders are not unduly restricted. The Marrakech Treaty will enter into force after ratification by twenty States.

According to the World Blind Union, there are an estimated 285 million blind and partially sighted people living worldwide; most of them in developing countries and only 5% of published books are available in special formats today. The objective of the EU, along with the World Blind Union, is to increase this figure to 100%.

See also MEMO/13/627

Contacts :

Chantal Hughes (+32 2 296 44 50)

Carmel Dunne (+32 2 299 88 94)

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