LIASA Statement on the WIPO Treaty for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Other Reading Disabled Persons

3 June 2013

The Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) strongly supports a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) International Treaty for the Visually Impaired. This Treaty will enable Member States to establish an exception in their national copyright laws that will authorise the making of accessible copies for people with print disabilities (blind, visually impaired and other reading disabilities). It will also enable cross-border exchange of accessible copies (e.g. in Braille, large print, accessible digital formats, e.g. e-books) between Member countries.   This will increase the number of accessible works for persons with visual disabilities around the globe. Currently, due to territorial restrictions of copyright law, individual countries have to make their own accessible formats (if they have exceptions for this in their national law) or they have to get copyright clearance first before being able to make accessible formats.  This process is expensive, time-consuming and a duplication of effort.  Many developed countries already have large collections of accessible formats, but the current copyright system stops them from sharing them with developing countries.

LIASA calls on the South African Government to strongly support this Treaty at the WIPO Diplomatic Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco (17-28 June 2013).  South Africa’s copyright law does not have any limitations or exceptions for persons with visual disabilities. Accessible formats are not available in bookstores or other outlets, so persons with visual disabilities cannot even purchase these items if they wanted to. They have to depend on charities, libraries or non-governmental organisations to make accessible formats for them.  This means that not only are their ‘fair dealing’ rights in the copyright law being infringed, but their human rights are being violated in terms of our Constitution, anti-Discrimination laws and international Conventions.

LIASA also calls on countries, rights-owners and powerful corporations that are opposing the Treaty to rethink their strategy on this important human rights issue.  Instead of restricting access to thousands of blind and visually impaired persons, they should support this Treaty and ensure equality of access to all.  Allow blind and visually impaired persons to become readers and in the process, future markets will be opened up for you too.

Ujala Satgoor
LIASA President 2012-2014

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