On the 4th January 2020 the Copyright (Marrakesh Treaty Implementation) Amendment Act entered into force in New Zealand, implementing Aotearoa’s obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty, to which New Zealand acceded last October.
What is the Marrakesh Treaty?
The “Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled” came into force in September 2016 following negotiations conducted by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
The primary goal of the Treaty is to increase the accessibility of books and other literary works to the blind, visually impaired, and otherwise print disabled. It enables this by providing a harmonised international framework (between countries that have ratified the Treaty) for copyright limitations and exemptions that permit the reproduction, distribution, import and export of copyright-protected works in formats such as Braille, audio and large-print.
Under traditional copyright law, the generation and international transfer of works reproduced and adapted in these ways might otherwise be prohibited or significantly restricted.
Copyright in Aotearoa
Copyright protection in New Zealand is provided for by the Copyright Act 1994 and the Copyright Regulations 1995.
Copyright owners have the exclusive right to copy their works; issue copies to the public; perform, play, show or communicate their works to the public; make an adaptation of their works; or authorise a third party to do any of these acts.
Aside from certain fair use provisions and other exclusions, for a third party to do any of the above, including potentially reproducing or adapting a work in another format, without the appropriate permissions or authorisation, might constitute copyright infringement, and would thus be prohibited.
Previously, New Zealand’s copyright laws did allow for a relatively limited group of people and organisations to adapt a copyright-protected work into Braille or other formats to assist others with print disabilities. However, international copyright restrictions created challenges for importing such copies from overseas.
What Does the Marrakesh Treaty Enable?
Broadly speaking for New Zealand, the Marrakesh Treaty expands the definition of those entities that can make and obtain these accessible works. It also facilitates easier importing and exporting of accessible format copies between New Zealand and other Marrakesh Treaty countries.
An “accessible format copy” is defined in the Copyright Amendment Act as: “a copy of a published literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work, or a part of the work, in an alternative manner or form that gives persons who have a print disability access to the work”.
The following organisations can now apply to be “authorised entities” in order to make and obtain accessible format copies of works:
- Educational Establishments
- Educational Resource Suppliers
- Prescribed Libraries (as defined in the Copyright Act)
- Charitable Entities (who have a purpose consistent with making accessible format copies available to people with a print disability)
Once authorised, these entities can:
- Make and distribute, within New Zealand, accessible format copies of literary and artistic works
- Export these copies to other Marrakesh member countries
- Import accessible format copies made by authorised entities in other Marrakesh member countries
- Reproduce copies of accessible format copies of works legally made or imported into New Zealand
- Provide accessible format copies legally made or imported into New Zealand
Anyone wishing to become an “authorised entity”, and before beginning any of the permitted activities, must notify the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment first.
Once authorised, there are a number of limitations associated with the permitted activities which include ensuring the accessible format copy respects the integrity of the original work (as far as is reasonably possible), ensuring the copy is only provided to the intended and authorised people or organisations, and keeping good records of all activities in this regard. Further details are available from MBIE or a copyright attorney.
The Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) Global Book Service
WIPO together with a number of organisations that represent the visually impaired, as well as those that represent authors and publishers, launched the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) in 2014. Its purpose is to globally increase the numbers and availability of books in accessible formats, thereby helping to facilitate the Marrakesh Treaty.
The ABC accomplishes this is three ways. Firstly, in sharing the technical skills required to reproduce literary works in accessible formats. Secondly, it encourages the publication of works in formats accessible to both the sighted and visually impaired from the outset – the concept of “born accessible” publishing. Thirdly, it has built and maintains the ABC Global Book Service – an international catalogue and database to facilitate the international exchange of accessible content.
Once a New Zealand organisation has been recognised as an “authorised entity”, it will be able to use the ABC Global Book Service to access and internationally share books in accessible format.
Visual Impairment in New Zealand and Benefits of the Marrakesh Treaty
As of 2013, an estimated 4% of the New Zealand population (168,000 people) were considered to have some form of visual impairment that could not be corrected by standard assistance devices such as glasses. Visual impairment was also strongly related to age, with 11% of adults over 65 displaying some form compared with 2% of adults aged 15 to 44.
It is estimated that less than 10% of all written works published globally are published in formats that are accessible to those with a visual impairment or print disability. This means over 90% of the world’s publications may potentially be inaccessible to this demographic.
As our population both ages and changes in other ways, membership of the Marrakesh Treaty supports access to books, literature and other creative works for everyone, thereby helping to address one potential barrier to all members of society being able to engage in public life.
This can deliver clear benefits through improved access to education, employment and other opportunities to contribute to society, which in turn can raise overall well-being.
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