US Chamber of Commerce out to block treaty meant to help the blind
It’s a noble plan.
A dozen nations meeting in Geneva on Monday to consider adopting the WIPO Treaty for Sharing Accessible Formats of Copyrighted Works for Persons Who are Blind or Have other Reading Disabilities. The proposal that is currently before a 180 WIPO members would see the ability to allow t he cross-border sharing of DRM-protected digitized books that literally tens of thousands of blind and visually disabled people read with specialized devices.
As Manon Ress, policy analyst at Knowledge Ecology International, says “This treaty would be the first one that is not done for the copyright owner, but for the user of the works – for the blind to make a copyrighted work accessible”
Well that should tell you right there who would be fighting the adoption of the treaty. We would of course have the usual suspects of software companies and entertainment trade groups but along with them is the good old U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
But that prospect doesn’t sit well with American business. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest lobby representing 3 million businesses, argues that the plan being proposed by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay, “raises a number of serious concerns,” (.pdf) chief among them the specter that the treaty would spawn a rash of internet book piracy.
The treaty also creates a bad precedent by loosening copyright restrictions, instead of tightening them as every previous copyright treaty has done, said Brad Huther, a chamber director. Huther concluded in a Dec. 2 letter to the U.S. Copyright office that the international community “should not engage in pursuing a copyright-exemption based paradigm.”
Echoing that concern, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry of America told the Copyright Office last month that such a treaty would “begin to dismantle the existing global treaty structure of copyright law, through the adoption of an international instrument at odds with existing, longstanding and well-settled norms.”
Source: Wired – Threat Level Blog
So thanks to the greed, protectionism and inability to realize the future we have major national and multi-national corporations along with their lap dogs like the Chamber of Commerce trying to deny what is already allowed in many countries – copyright exemptions for non-profit companies to digitized books for the blind.
Many WIPO nations, most in the industrialized world including England, the United States and Canada, have copyright exemptions that usually allow non-profit companies to market copyrighted works without permission. They scan and digitize books into the so-called universal Daisy format, which includes features like narration and digitized Braille.
The Daisy Corp. Consortium, a Swiss-based international agency, controls formatting worldwide and has some 100 companies under its direction across the globe. The largest catalog rests in the United States, in which three non-profits, including the Library of Congress, host some half million digital titles produced by federal grants and donations.
As it now stands, none of the nations may allow persons outside their borders to access these works, which are usually doled out for little or no charge. The treaty seeks to free up the cross-border sharing of the books for the blind.
“People who oppose copyright exemptions oppose exemptions on principle that there should be no exemptions of copyright law,” says George Kerscher, Daisy’s general secretary. “They should have sole right and discretion to do what they want with their intellectual property. To a great extent, the opposition to the treaty is based on that principle.”
To receive any reading materials, the blind and disabled must prove their condition, he said. In the United States, Knowledge Ecology International estimates about 5 percent of published books have been transformed to the Daisy format.
Source: Wired – Threat Level Blog
Chief amongst the opponents of course is The Association of American Publishers who is arguing basically that what is in place right now is good enough and that really the blind should be paying for their materials.
It’s so nice to see capitalism at work isn’t it…….