(Update at end of post.)
You know that I don’t usually post something not directly related to what I do here, but there’s a matter that has come up which could be a concern to listeners who are blind, have vision impairments or other kinds of restrictions from reading print.
If you are one of those listeners, it’s possible you have been able to get accessible versions of text (books, magazines, etc.) because of certain copyright exemptions within your country. Not everyone in the world has access to those materials, because their respective countries may not produce them. Earlier this week at the 18th Session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (WIPO being the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization), the governments of Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay introduced a proposal for a treaty which would allow those materials to be more easily imported and exported, so more people around the world can have access to them. More information on this treaty can be found here.
Okay, this sounds great. But in the negotiations about the treaty going on as I write this, government representatives of many of the richer countries – including the U.S., Canada, Australia and countries of the European Union – are fighting to have this treaty killed, on the basis of protecting copyright owners. This is a similar rationale to the Writers Guild in the U.S. lobbying to disable the speech-to-text feature in the new Kindle (more information on that here), but taken to a more basic and global level.
Activists at this WIPO meeting are doing their best to inform as many people as possible about what’s going on here, acknowledging the dangerous precedent it sets for rights to print accessibility. The matter was initially brought to my attention by Cory Doctorow, writing this post this morning on BoingBoing, which referred to this post by one of the activists on site. If these issues are of concern to you, you may want to read this information and pass it along to anyone you think may also be interested.
Again, I’m sorry to take this blog out of the usual realm into something more like advocacy, but this seemed like an especially important matter to many members of the audience, and the call for more restriction has gained a momentum that I feel needs to be met with louder calls from those affected.
Thanks for getting through this. Back to the show… :-)
Update: The WIPO has made a decision to carry over discussion of the treaty to the next session of the Committee, with time and place yet to be determined. This means the treaty has not been killed, but has not yet been approved either. The official conclusions have been posted here. This gives anyone concerned with these issues time to build support for the next round – and to take a hard look at the governments that were fighting to have the treaty killed. Thanks again.