Challenges Facing a Proposed WIPO Treaty for Persons Who are Blind or Print Disabled

12 Pages Posted: 23 May 2013

See all articles by Brook K. Baker

Brook K. Baker

Northeastern University - School of Law

Date Written: May 21, 2013


A multi-year negotiation at the World Intellectual Property Organisation seeking to create a flexible exception from copyright protection for people who are blind or have print disabilities has faced multiple challenges. Industry representatives, especially publishing and film, have been concerned that codifying globally enforced, minimum exceptions to copyright could create a template for additional limitations and exceptions that would ultimately benefit libraries, educators and students, researchers, and innovative businesses that rely on more flexible copyright rules. The United States and European Union have been the most recalcitrant negotiators, objecting primarily to language promoting easy cross-border exchange of e-accessible versions of print material. Regrettably, broad translation rights, audio-visual works and accessibility for hearing impaired persons has already been written out of the proposed treaty. There are further limitations that might condition access to circumstances where accessible content is not otherwise commercially available, limit access other than thorough authorized in-country exchanges, and allow contractual limitations on access rights. Only 7% of print materials are available in high-income countries and less than 1% is available in low- and middle-income countries. Failing to adopt a treaty or watering it down would be a huge setback in terms of the access of persons with vision and print disabilities to the fruits of the information age.

Suggested Citation

Baker, Brook K., Challenges Facing a Proposed WIPO Treaty for Persons Who are Blind or Print Disabled (May 21, 2013). Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 142-2013. Available at SSRN:

Brook K. Baker (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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