LIASA Statement on the Marrakesh Treaty

28 June 2013

LIASA extends its warmest congratulations and greetings to every individual and every organisation that has worked so incredibly hard to make the Treaty for Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled Persons a reality. LIASA acknowledges the sterling work, dedication, commitment and important roles played by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), Electronic Information for Libraries (eIFL) and their Alliance partners, The World Blind Union and its partners, the Africa Group, the South African National Council for the Blind Copyright Alliance, as well as dedicated individual members of LIASA and the higher educational sector. It also acknowledges WIPO Secretariat’s role in helping Member States reach this wonderful goal.

This Treaty is not just a miracle for access to knowledge for blind and visually impaired people, but a miracle for access to knowledge in general, and especially for countries in the developing world. It has shown that by Member States, stakeholders across the spectrum, international organisations and civil society working together in a transparent, multilateral environment, positive outcomes can be achieved. It is the first WIPO Treaty ever to focus on a specific group of users of information, but it augurs well for further Treaties under discussion at WIPO and supported by LIASA, which will address the needs of education, research, libraries and archives in a digital world.

As IFLA stated at Marrakesh on 27 June 2013:

The Treaty will help libraries:

    • Meet increasing demand for accessible works to be made available between countries/communities that share a same language, e.g. Spanish, French, English
    • Help print-disabled refugees, immigrants and short term visitors who need to access content made elsewhere, in the context of greater mobility around the world
    • Increase the number of accessible books and the timeliness of making accessible copies available
    • Empower print-disabled persons to participate fully in society and to contribute their talents

We acknowledge with great appreciation, the work and support of our Government during the many years of discussions and often difficult debates about this Treaty at WIPO, and the role it played in making the Marrakesh Treaty a reality.

The library and educational sectors in South Africa have been lobbying for provisions for persons with sensory disabilities, as well as better provisions for education, research, and libraries and archives, since 1998. We now look forward to our Government’s commitment at Marrakesh to accede to this Treaty, and to amend our copyright and other relevant legislation, as a matter of urgency. As stated in our Government’s closing statement at Marrakesh on 27 June 2013:

The Marrakesh Treaty will forever be remembered as the first WIPO treaty that reaffirms exceptions and limitations in the copyright regime, but also as a means to end the book famine that has long plagued people with visual impairment and print disabilities.

South Africa is embarking on the process of reviewing its copyright legislation and will accede to the Treaty when all internal processes are concluded.

In conclusion, South Africa continues to attach great importance to a balanced approach between intellectual property right holders and public interest and it is within this context, that we reaffirm our support and commitment to this treaty.

Ujala Stagoor
LIASA President 2012-2014

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This statement was drafted by Mrs Denise Nicholson on behalf of LIASA
Denise Nicholson (Mrs)
Scholarly Communications Librarian
Scholarly Communications & Copyright Services Office
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg