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Minister signs Regulations to improve access to books for visually impaired persons

The European Union (Marrakesh Treaty Regulations) 2018 were signed into law by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D. on 9th October 2018 and came into effect on 11th October 2018.

The Regulation allows “beneficiary persons”- persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled; and, “authorised entities”- organisations established for the purpose of assisting persons with print disability; to make an accessible format copy of a work or other print material for their exclusive use. It also permits “authorised entities”, to make, communicate, make available, distribute or lend an accessible format copy of a work to a “beneficiary person” or another “authorised entity” within the EU. This will mean that accessible format copies in one Member State can be disseminated and accessed throughout the EU. This will allow for the greater availability of works across the internal market.

Minister Humphreys stated, “The provisions contained in the Regulations will help end the book famine and create a more equitable society so that all persons can equally enjoy and partake in the joy of reading books of fact or fiction.”

These Regulations act to incorporate the EU Directive (EU) 2017/1564 on certain permitted uses of certain works and other subject matter protected by copyright at related rights for the benefit of persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print-disabled into Irish law. The aim of these Regulations is to improve the availability and accessibility of certain works by allowing for copies of copyright protected works (such as books, e-books, journals, newspapers, magazines and other kinds of writing) to be made available in accessible formats (e.g. Braille, large print, e-books or audiobook) for the blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print-disabled, without requiring the permission of the rightsholder.

A separate EU Regulation (2017/1563) provides for the cross-border exchange of accessible format copies between EU Member States and third countries that are parties to the Marrakesh Treaty. Regulation 2017/1563 has direct effect across the EU and does not require transposition Irish national legislation.

On 1st October 2018, the EU ratified the Marrakesh Treaty in a ceremony at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva. It was carried out by Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger of Austria, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Claire Bury, Deputy Director-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technologies at the European Commission.

Minister John Halligan T.D., said, “The changes introduced will provide greater access to books for millions of people and improve the cross-border exchange of books and other printed material in accessible formats around the world for the benefit of persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print-disabled.” Minister Halligan further added, “This is separate to the improved provision for all persons with a disability which is contained in the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018, which is currently progressing through Seanad Éireann.”

ENDS.

Notes to Editors:

Marrakesh Treaty
The Marrakesh Treaty is an international agreement under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organisation which was adopted on 28th June 2013 at Marrakesh and was signed by over 50 countries, including Ireland. The Treaty facilitates access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled in formats such as braille, large print text and audio books. The Treaty also provides for the exchange of works across borders by organisations that serve people who are blind, visually impaired, and print disabled.

EU Directive (2017/1564) and EU Regulation (2017/1563).
In September 2016, the European Commission launched a series of legislative proposals as part of the Digital Single Market Strategy aimed at modernising copyright. This included two legislative proposals, a Directive (EU 2017/1564) and a Regulation (EU 2017/1563), jointly intended to enable implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty into EU law.

The Directive facilitates the use of certain copyright protected works, without the authorisation of the rightsholder, for the benefit of persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. The accompanying EU Regulation provides for the cross-border exchange of accessible format copies between EU Member States and third countries that are parties to the Marrakesh Treaty.

The European Union (Marrakesh Treaty) Regulations 2018, and accompanying Guidance Notes, will be published shortly on the DBEI website.

Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018
This Bill, which is currently progressing through the Houses of the Oireachtas, contains a number of additional copyright exceptions that will benefit all persons with a disability. It is anticipated that this Bill will be finalised during the Autumn session.

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