Administration Went From Supporting Copyright Exceptions For The Blind… To Working To Block Them

from the there-can-be-no-copyright-exceptions-whatsoever dept

For a long time now, there’s been an effort underway to craft important copyright exceptions for the visually impaired, which would do things like give them the right to convert a written work into an audio work through text-to-speech software. While it seems like this should be allowed (after all, isn’t reading a book out loud legal under copyright law?) some have claimed that such text-to-speech efforts violate copyright law. There are some other areas, too, where copyright law makes life more difficult for the blind. To deal with this WIPO has been discussing a treaty that would create some copyright exceptions for these specific cases. Not surprisingly, the entertainment industry came out very strongly against helping the blind with such a treaty, as they fear any effort to add more exceptions to copyright law, even if it means the blind are more likely to consume their products.

Late last year, the Obama administration surprised a lot of us by going against the entertainment industry’s wishes, and saying it actually supported the treaty’s exceptions for the blind. I later heard from some folks who were a part of those discussions, who said it was actually a pretty heated battle among different camps within the administration to get it to support such a minor exception to copyright law, as the “usual suspects” were putting a lot of pressure on the administration to hold the line against any copyright exceptions.

Frankly, it still amazes me that anyone could be against a treaty designed to help the visually impaired from accessing more works.

However, apparently there were some negotiations in Geneva this week about this particular treaty, and all that stuff from last year about the administration supporting it may have been nothing more than window dressing. Jamie Love — who has played a role in trying to move this treaty effort forward — recently reported from the meeting that the US delegation appeared to do a lot more to block progress on this treaty than to move it forward:

Today a UN body is trying to reach an agreement on work on copyright exceptions for persons who are blind or have other disabilities. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is aggressively trying to block adoption of a work program that would include the possibility of a treaty. Officially, the USPTO is proposing an alternative approach that could be a step toward a treaty. Privately, the USPTO and other federal agencies are putting enormous pressure on countries to abandon a binding treaty in favor of a very weak and even harmful resolution.

Love quotes Justin Hughes from the USPTO threatening to a consumer rights organization that supports the proposal that he was going to “make your lives miserable.” This would be the same Justin Hughes who was the source of the quotes a few months ago saying that the administration was all for these exceptions:

“We recognize that some in the international copyright community believe that any international consensus on substantive limitations and exceptions to copyright law would weaken international copyright law,” Justin Hughes, a Department of Commerce senior adviser, told the WIPO on Tuesday. “The United States does not share that point of view.”

Apparently, that was then. This is now. Back at the time, Hughes had implied that this was really a horse trade. The Obama administration would support these exceptions for the blind, but, in response would put its weight behind ACTA. That’s the subtext of the following quotes:

“The United States is committed to both better exceptions in copyright law and better enforcement of copyright law,” Hughes said. “Indeed, as we work with countries to establish consensus on proper, basic exceptions within copyright law, we will ask countries to work with us to improve the enforcement of copyright. This is part and parcel of a balanced international system of intellectual property.”

So, with ACTA negotiations about to kickoff, it looks like the US has decided to focus just on “enforcement” and has given up any serious concern for “exceptions.” Balance? Feels like someone’s fingers are pushing down that scale entirely to one side. When was the last time that an administration actually was interesting in keeping the other side of copyright law equally balanced?

Filed Under: ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Administration Went From Supporting Copyright Exceptions For The Blind… To Working To Block Them”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
34 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

The problem is, I’m not sure what to do with this. It’s like watching The Daily Show and noticing all of the hypocritical statements made by politicians — yes, they are more interested in scoring political gains than actually helping people; yes, they are willing to completely contradict themselves without any cognitive dissonance, as they seem to assume that their constituents are morons.

But where does that leave me? What am I actually supposed to do in this situation, other than be glad that people are pointing this stuff out? It doesn’t seem like there is any ability (from a layperson’s perspective) to actually *CHANGE* anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

no i tend to think it absolutely disgusting that able bodied people will support rights for a group like the blind only because it serves their own purposes. anti-copyright types are just looking to drill another hole through the dam to let more water leak through. it is disgusting and shameful to work that way.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“no i tend to think it absolutely disgusting that able bodied people will support rights for a group like the blind only because it serves their own purposes. anti-copyright types are just looking to drill another hole through the dam to let more water leak through. it is disgusting and shameful to work that way.”

That only works if you offer an alternative. Otherwise you just sound like a moron.

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Re:

it has to be friday, that is the only time vapid shit like this appears on techdirt.

This is the fourth time today you’ve mentioned that it’s Friday, then made some asinine comment about how “this type” of article is only posted on Fridays. Nothing that has been posted today seems different from what is normally posted on Techdirt.

Are you really so much of a blowhard that you can’t even come up with something meaningful to say?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: USPTO

Corruption, they are using what juice we have left to poof up a hopeless business model. Remember when they had Obama on every channel 24×7 he was always stoic and they basicly elected him. The majority of America still watches the actors on the the “news”. They have realized that we were duped and that this has to stop. This treaty will be discarded once these jokers leave office. The world marches toward freedom no matter what…

Anonymous Coward says:

1. This activity has nothing to do with ACTA.

2. I believe I am correct in saying that Prof. Hughes is not associated with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

3. No one disputes providing help to persons with disabilities. The issue is which among 4 competing proposals provides such help with minimal gaming of the system by persons claiming to have disabilities.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“3. No one disputes providing help to persons with disabilities. The issue is which among 4 competing proposals provides such help with minimal gaming of the system by persons claiming to have disabilities.”

Gaming of the system for the purpose of copyright infringement?! Do you live in a country without disability benefits or something? We have a simple check: is the person registered as blind?

coutreau says:

I don’t get how a blind person who buys an ebook or whatever and uses a text-to-speech program to listen to the purchased ebook would harm in any way, shape, or form the publisher/author. The publisher should already have a digital copy of every book they sell (unless they’re using a printing press) so it’s not like they’d have to do extra work to sell an ebook really. I’ll never understand the idiotic views some people have.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...