We've been covering the latest efforts
by copyright maximalists to screw over the blind in the decades-in-waiting WIPO treaty process to help them get more access to content by creating clear carveouts in copyright law that protect the rights of the blind and of those who are transforming works for the blind. Basically, it's about protecting the fundamental rights of the blind to have access to information that others have because they have sight. This process has gone on for ages, in large part because copyright maximalists absolutely fear the idea that anyone might put forth an agreement that ever so slightly pushes back on the maximalist agenda.
The amazing thing is that they're not even subtle about this. Last year, we noted that in a video by Jamie Love showing Alan Adler, a VP for the Association of American Publishers, Adler was quite upfront about the fact that they're against this agreement for the blind not because of the blind folks who need the help, but rather because they're afraid
of even opening the door to expanding things like fair use -- which he claims is some sort of attack on copyright.
Jamie Love has now called our attention to a letter sent by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) to Teresa Stanek Rea, the Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and the Director of the USPTO, concerning this treaty, in which the IPO is equally explicit that its main complaint is any expansion of user rights like fair use
is simply not acceptable. From the full letter
, which is also embedded below:
IPO supports international action that addresses the needs of the visually impaired in
meaningful ways, but we are concerned about the VIP treaty as currently drafted,
focused exclusively on L/Es and not on the rights holders whose copyrights are at stake.
We are also concerned about the potentially negative, precedential effect that a one-sided, exceptions-focused VIP treaty may have on parallel developments at WIPO and
in other international negotiations
This is all sorts of hilarious. After all, the folks at IPO have long supported incredibly one-sided agreements that only
focus on the expansion of copyright, and they're among those who have actively fought any attempt to include user rights (they prefer to call them "limitations and exceptions") in such agreements. So for them to suddenly step up and complain that this one small, narrowly focused agreement is a problem because it "only" focuses on such things, without regards to their "rights holders whose copyrights are at stake" is pretty funny. Why has IPO never been concerned about the rights of the public and users in every other such agreement?
Our main concern about the VIP treaty, as currently drafted, is that it addresses L/Es to
copyrights in isolation, without parallel provisions addressing IP holders’ rights. The
proposed VIP treaty would create specific L/Es to copyright protection, with the aim of
broadening access to print works for the visually impaired. However, it would not
reflect the importance of protecting the copyright of those who created the work.
Okay, so simple question for the IPO folks: in all future agreements that it supports, will it agree to support a "balance" that addresses user rights
, rather than focusing on "copyrights in isolation without parallel provisions addressing users rights?"
The idea that the "rights" here are only one way and must be constantly ratcheted up is disingenuous and somewhat sickening. It's this position that has kept the blind community from having access to all sorts of works for decades. And during those decades, folks like IPO have supported all sorts of incredibly one-sided expansions to copyright law without concerns for any public or user rights.