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.

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Comments on “Shameful: US Secrecy Holding Up Treaty To Help Blind Access Copyrighted Works”

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30 Comments
Beech (profile) says:

“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(?)”

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Greg Terrence says:

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!!

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

JustMe (profile) says:

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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