Shameful: US Secrecy Holding Up Treaty To Help Blind Access Copyrighted Works

from the more-of-the-same dept

We've been talking about ACTA and TPP and the ridiculous levels of secrecy around them for a while now, but the US's overly secret policies are showing up in other treaty issues as well. For years, we've been talking about negotiations at WIPO to create a treaty that would provide specific exceptions to copyright law to help the blind get access to works in formats they could read (basically, it would make it so the blind could more easily import braille and other versions that are readable for the visually impaired from other countries). This issue has been out there forever. And while we always hear how important it is that US negotiators rush to get deals like ACTA and TPP done, they've dragged their heels on the treaty for the blind for ages. At the urging of copyright holders, the Obama administration came out against such a treaty a few years ago. And the EU Commission has been against such a treaty for a while as well, claiming that it's just too hard to put in place. Yeah, rush through things like ACTA and TPP... but helping the blind get access to works? That's just too hard...

Over at WIPO, the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) conference is ongoing, and one of the agenda items is this treaty for the blind. One of the key points that have held up negotiations is whether or not this should really be a "treaty." As I understand it, copyright maximalists are scared silly of creating an actual treaty that is focused on "exceptions and limitations," because that might make people realize that exceptions and limitations are a thing they can create whole treaties around... and thus we'd start seeing a lot more of that.

And, in fact, on the agenda at SCCR are two other potential agreements (which are much newer) discussing the possibility of exceptions and limitations in two other areas: education and libraries. As this video, shot by Jamie Love at KEI of Alan Adler, the VP of the Association of American Publishers, shows, he's against these kinds of treaties because the publishers believe that exceptions and limitations are an attack on their rights, and they don't want to support that kind of thing.
What's really disturbing, however, is that despite years and years of work on a treaty for exceptions for the blind, and despite the public's reaction to secret negotiations in the likes of SOPA, ACTA and TPP... the US so far has been keeping the text of what's being discussed a secret. Jamie Love has been explaining that this is creating huge problems at SCCR, because very few people know exactly what's in the text, and they feel that they're wasting time. There had been some hope that a basic agreement might finally have been worked out at this session. But, instead, while lobbyists have been briefed, actual advocates for the blind and the public have been left out in the cold and don't even know what's in the latest draft.

There's no way to describe this other than absolutely shameful on the part of the US government and the Obama administration. It's dragged its feet for years on helping the blind over this issue, even while trying to rush through all sorts of copyright treaties that favor Hollywood. And now, despite all of that, having the US (once again) keep the text a secret... it's just shameful.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jul 19th, 2012 @ 2:47pm

    The right to read

    I'm no fan of Richard Stallman's, but The Right To Read is looking less like science fiction and more like modern reality every week lately...

     

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    gorehound (profile), Jul 19th, 2012 @ 2:58pm

    Just another reason to hate this Government and to hate both the Major Political Parties.Just another reason to hate the whole Big Content Industry.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2012 @ 3:01pm

    We wouldn't want to make any limitations or exceptions to the rights we have granted major corporations and industries, but of course we have no problems limiting the rights of the public.

    We could make it our new motto if we could fit it on a dollar bill.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2012 @ 3:12pm

    I wish they'd go blind. I bet they'd suddenly be all about getting those exceptions in place if it made their own lives easier.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2012 @ 3:12pm

    That's what you would call

    ... Transparency

     

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    Beech, Jul 19th, 2012 @ 3:32pm

    "Shameful: US Secrecy Holding Up Treaty To Help Blind Access Copyrighted Works"

    "... it's just shameful."

    Pretty sure having a sense of shame precludes you from participating in politics. What would cause "shame" to a normal person only invokes feelings of "me" and "whatever" to a politician. Their feelings on any given issue is directly correlated to how much they are getting paid to pretend they posses those things called "feel-lings(?)"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2012 @ 3:33pm

    There seems to be a handful of WIPO copyright folks aiding in this subterfuge. The Director General is so under pressure about the North Korea and Iran computer supplies that with the State Department and Congress breathing down his back to reveal documents, he is appeasing them by allowing the secret, non-transparent 'informal' negotiations. This back-door strategybis what got him the Beijing Treaty for the performers and which will more than likely get him one on broadcasting. But the same strategy will be used to delay treaty making in the areas of traditional knowledge, limitations and exceptions, especially for libraries and education. What are the blind? They will have to wait for 2015 when a new Director General in is place. Francis Gurry has to resign. See several the recent article on WIPO, Gurry and US Congress.

     

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    Beech, Jul 19th, 2012 @ 3:38pm

    Now see? If you were a politician you probably would have. at least once. And if not, it would have been an asian boy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2012 @ 3:48pm

    Just readthis article and letter from US CONGRESS to WIPO - Francis Gurry. He has a lot to hide, including the alleged corruption in the copyright sector with certain initiatives, including the IMR, use of US funds, etc....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2012 @ 4:02pm

     

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    Greg Terrence, Jul 19th, 2012 @ 6:00pm

    America's gonna have to start making noise about ACTA. The way europe did that stopped all that garbage. Hollywood is out of control. Our govt is doing anything the movie moguls tell them. Its time to start fighing Hollywood, harder.. And its time to get that Hollywood puppet Obama outa office and outa our lives once and for all!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2012 @ 9:19pm

    Is there independent and reliable verification that the US is, in fact, keeping the supposed text "secret", or is Mr. Love simply disappointed that he is not a participant or obeserver of international discussions? Each of these sessions are preceeded by an agenda, in multiple languages, and followed by detailed minutes, also in multiple languages, copies of which are posted at the US Copyright Office website, as well as numerous other venues.

    In my opinion your use of the word "shameful" is over the top, misleading, and prejudicial, doing little more than to try and cast these multinational sessions in as negative a light as possible.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 20th, 2012 @ 2:05am

      Re:

      Is there independent and reliable verification that the US is, in fact, keeping the supposed text "secret", or is Mr. Love simply disappointed that he is not a participant or obeserver of international discussions?

      I've now spoken to 5 different people attending SCCR and all say that the text remains secret, and they're upset that time is running out to actually discuss the proposal.

      In my opinion your use of the word "shameful" is over the top, misleading, and prejudicial, doing little more than to try and cast these multinational sessions in as negative a light as possible.

      No. It is shameful. This is an issue that the White House has dragged its feet on, flip-flopped over and generally just resisted every attempt to move forward. It's shameful.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 5:54am

        Re: Re:

        I am assuming that the text is "secret". My question, however, is if is being done at the insistence of the US? My point is simply one cannot discount the possibility that there are other countries having such a predisposition.

         

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          Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 20th, 2012 @ 3:49pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          My question, however, is if is being done at the insistence of the US? My point is simply one cannot discount the possibility that there are other countries having such a predisposition.

          There has been confirmation from nearly every other party that they want the text public and would like to move forward. The missing party is the US.

           

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    JustMe (profile), Jul 20th, 2012 @ 5:25am

    Can someone explain to me

    How the administration of the current President is any different from the guys we threw out three years ago? It seems like no matter who sits in the Big Chair the entrenched bureaucrats keep pulling the same cons to help their crony friends make money. If the President can't control his people, or doesn't know what they are doing, or tacitly and/or explicitly approves, then why should we allow him to keep his job?

    Perhaps the solution is term limits on department heads. Of course, they would need to hire someone qualified so would just poach people from the industries they are supposed to be regulating...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 8:45am

    First sale?

    What stops anyone buying Braille copies of books and importing them to places, again? Shouldn't that fall under first sale? It's not like books have region codes on them.

     

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