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India Signs Marrakesh Treaty for Visually Impaired

India has signed the ‘Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled’ at a ceremony organized by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) at Geneva during 28th April to 2nd May 2014 through Smt. Veena Ish, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Pertinently the Marrakesh treaty aims at creating a set of mandatory limitations and exceptions for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired, and otherwise print disabled (VIPs). It requires Contracting Parties to introduce a standard set of limitations and exceptions to copyright rules in order to permit reproduction, distribution, and making available of published works in formats designed to be accessible to VIPs and to permit the exchange of these works across borders by organizations that serve those beneficiaries. Further, the Treaty also makes it clear that beneficiary persons are those affected by a range of disabilities that interfere with the effective reading of printed material. The broad definition includes persons who are blind, visually impaired, or reading disabled or persons with a physical disability that prevents them from holding and manipulating a book.

The treaty is expected to come into effect 3 months after 20 parties have ratified the treaty. However according to the sources, to date, no country has implemented it. In her statement, Joint Secretary, MHRD (India), Smt Veena Ish, highlighted that India’s Copyright Amendments which came into effect in June 2012, are already in complete harmony with the Marrakesh Treaty, thus putting India in a good position to implement the treaty. She also stated that India will be ratifying this treaty ‘very soon’. She further added that the task does not end there but we need to have an appropriate mechanism in order to implement the provisions of the treaty in its true spirit with the cooperation of all the member states and the International Bureau of WIPO.

G.R. Raghavender, the registrar of copyrights and a director in the Indian Copyright office, said that organizations entitled to produce copies in accessible formats have to work for non-profit purposes, and can only charge expenses for the copy. Organizations that want to produce copies in an accessible format on a profitable basis have to apply to the Copyright Board and can be granted a compulsory license. He further stated that said India’s ratification of the treaty is expected by the end of May 2014.

The release said that once India ratifies it, the treaty will facilitate the importation of accessible format copies from the member states by the authorized entities in the country, such as educational institutions, libraries, and institutions working for the benefit of visually impaired persons.

This treaty, which was first adopted on 23 June 2013, was also signed by the European Union, France, and Greece, bringing the total number of countries that have signed to 64, out of WIPO’s 187 members.

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