Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Polychrome Heroics: The Marrakesh Treaty

I found this article about the Marrakesh Treaty to improve accessibility of print materials.

Terramagne has one too, but it is somewhat different. I couldn't resist laying out some of those divergences. You can see how they're doing things a little faster and better. *chuckle* And what happens when a supervillain has reasons of enlightened self-interest to back the thing. ;)

Locally, The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled was signed by 51 countries on June 28, 2013, at the close of the conference. The current number of signatories is 79. The treaty must be ratified by 20 countries in order to take effect. So far it has been ratified by India, El Salvador, Mali, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Singapore, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Mongolia, South Korea, Israel, North Korea, and Peru. On March 27, 2014, Israel simply implemented the Marrakesh Treaty by legislation, and also broadened its scope in various ways.


In Terramagne, the initial project was the brainchild of, and substantially funded by, Ras el Hanout. His worldwide smuggling organization employs a lot of people with disabilities, because they tend to get overlooked by others, which is a terrific advantage for trafficking contraband of any kind.

The Terramagne version required only 10 countries to ratify it before going into effect. That means it activated on March 27, 2014. The initial rollout period gives those nations until the end of 2014 to enact the provisions of the treaty in their territory. Here are the top-ten countries for soups and their signing status: the Republic of the Maldives (Local not listed, Terramagne no), Sweden (L no, T yes), India (ratified in both), the United Kingdom (yes in both), the United States of America (yes in both), Canada (L no, T yes), Tibet (L not listed, T yes), Italy (L no, T yes), Pakistan (L not listed, T yes), and Kenya (L not listed, T no). The Republic of the Maldives simply hasn't paid attention to the treaty yet, but can easily be talked into signing it because so many people with superpowers need accommodations. The bottom-ten countries for soups are Somalia, North Korea, Haiti, Colombia, Nigeria, Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, China, and the Solomon Islands. Of those, only Israel and Palestine signed the treaty, and only Israel has ratified it. North Korea and China both opposed it, have protested bitterly, and have stated their intent to sue anyone who tries to "steal" their cultural content by rendering it for "cripples." North Korea and South Korea in particular are squabbling because South Korea ratified the treaty.

The biggest difference in wording of the treaty is that the Terramagne version doesn't stipulate these accommodations as "exceptions" which can be done "without permission" from authors or publishers. Instead, it explictly defines "publishing" a work as making it available to "the public." Therefore, the process of publication necessarily agrees that everyone may partake of it. That means publishing includes permission to render the material into formats usable by people with disabilities. Authors and publishers are not obligated to release a work in all formats, but may not prevent it from being released in more accessible formats. (They do retain the right to challenge a particular organization if they feel the result would not be up to their own standards.)

Another huge change is that the Terramagne version applies to all media, not just printed books. Materials should be accessible to everyone in a format they can use. Similarly, the scope is not limited to visual impairments, but to any disability which makes the original format either less effective or ineffective, and would benefit from augmentation or transposal in another format.

The primary part of the treaty concerns the non-profit reproduction of materials in accessible formats for people with a registered disability. However, not everyone wants to or is able to document their need for accessible materials. Some countries don't have any kind of official recognition for disabled status, many senior citizens benefit from large-print books without necessarily being listed as "vision-impaired," and so forth. There are optional provisions for making materials available to anyone who claims a need for them. Some organizations for disabled people want to make materials available for sale instead of or in addition to free copies. There is a recommended process for directing a standard cut of profits to the copyright holder. Some publishers and authors want to waive their rights to a cut of profits from sales if an organization for the disabled does the work of producing an accessible version. There are recommended policies for that too, including a tax credit incentive for participants.

To manage these and other aspects, the treaty includes the formation of a database with functions like "I want to find things to read," "I want to make my work accessible to a wider audience," and "I want to help make materials more accessible." In particular, the provision for publishers and authors to list their work is a reflection of Terramagne's preference for opt-in approaches. They've made the change to publication as a process, but when it comes to application, they'd like to start with people who want their material disseminated more widely. Organizations that want to transpose materials thus have a new resource for selecting which works to choose in addition to "most popular," "required for a class," "requested by a client," so now they can add "works volunteered by copyright holders." Similarly this database will reduce duplication of efforts: once a work has been rendered in a more accessible format, that can be shared easily so that other people do not have to redo it. There is a provision for authors and publishers to list their commercially available titles, so that people know not to duplicate those. To encourage participation, commercial titles are added to the database's shopping page, which encourages sales; and a percentage of profit goes toward maintaining the database.

A discussion of legalities and ethics includes the umbra (people with registered disabilities and organizations which serve them), penumbra (people with unlisted difficulties, other organizations such as libraries that assist people in finding materials, people who want to make things more accessible), and violations (people who don't need the accommodations and are seeking to cheat copyright holders for personal profit, corporations or governments who skip out on their obligations). The first category is completely protected. The second is a gray area in which people are urged to respect each other's needs and work out agreements without resorting to lawsuits. The third comes with a stipulation of penalties in the form of fines or community service hours being directed to organizations which make materials more accessible.

Further Reading

Update on the Marrakesh Treaty

List of countries with their Marrakesh status and other provisions for accessible materials
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, demifiction, fantasy, holiday, poetry, politics, reading, weblit, writing
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