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Access to information is a fundamental human right. It allows individuals to effectively participate in social, political, and cultural life. Many international treaties oblige countries to secure this right for all individuals including those with disabilities. However, as I noted in my previous post, many national copyright laws, including US copyright law, place limitations on access to information by the blind. A move to address this issue is underway at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which may consider an international treaty that would require countries to remove certain copyright restrictions that prevent access. The Copyright Office, which is part of the U.S. delegation to WIPO, had invited public comments on this issue. The comments filed with the Copyright Office are available here.
In its comments, the MPAA claims that any treaty imposing limitations would undermine the international regime for copyright protection. We have filed reply comments rebutting this claim. In our reply, we note that copyright is only a small part of the international regime, which places a far greater emphasis on securing fundamental human rights. The right of the blind to access information and to participate in society is one such a right. If ambiguities in the international copyright regime pose a hurdle in the achievement of these rights, an international treaty providing for limitations to copyright is not only appropriate but also essential.
The Copyright Office will hold a hearing on the issue this Monday. Attend the hearings and hear what people have to say about the issue.