The Marrakesh Treaty is an international treaty administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The full title is ‘the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled’ explains the aim of the treaty. The Treaty was agreed in 2013 in Marrakesh, Morocco and it came into force September 30, 2016. By November 2019 already 87 countries have ratified the treaty.
The Marrakesh Treaty creates an international legal framework that allows the production and distribution of accessible format copies for people with print disabilities, and the exchange of accessible books across national borders by organizations that serve persons with print disabilities.
Why is the Marrakesh Treaty needed
The exceptions to copyright laws are needed to make sure that accessible copies of printed works can be made available to persons who are visually impaired, have reading or learning disabilities, or who cannot physically hold or manipulate a book. Nowadays, only a small proportion of published books are available as accessible formats, such as audio books, accessible e-books, in large print, or Braille books. This situation is sometimes called book famine.
The Marrakesh Treaty and Inclusive publishing
The Marrakesh Treaty does not impose requirements for publishers. The treaty gives rights to persons with print disabilities and to persons and non-profit organizations working on behalf of people with print disabilities. What is the role of the Marrakesh Treaty when publishing becomes more and more digital? Digitalization or digitizing materials does not itself remove the barriers to access books. Ebooks can be as inaccessible as printed books for persons with print disabilities, if ebooks are not produced properly. What is needed is inclusive and accessible publishing.
The whole chain related to reading needs to be inclusive from finding a desired title, getting accessibility information about the title, buying the title and reading it as easily as a sighted person can read a printed book. When this becomes reality, the rights the Marrakesh Treaty gives can be used to produce books published only in printed format and to produce older books. At the end, the total number of accessible books available will increase and the book famine of the print disabled persons can be ended.