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?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 12:37pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 12:53pm

    acta is a raporist. it also will eat your children and shit on your lawn.

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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 1:04pm

    Re:

    So you're agaisnt blind people being able to consume culture?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 1:09pm

    The U.S. will be so sorry when they realize they don't invent everything and they need ideas as bad as everyone else.

    I would like to see the U.S. try and seize anything from another sovereign country like China or Russia and see how they respond to imaginary property allegations.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    A, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 1:11pm

    Re:

    Why do you like to suffer are you a masochist?

    Stop reading, go somewhere else. You can't can you shmoe?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Jun 25th, 2010 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Re:

    Yes, this is TAM after all. He *has* to oppose everything Mike says, else his shtick will fail. He will come out in favour of eating live babies and raping goats if Mike writes a post about how bad they are.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 25th, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    Re:

    Haha, I've got people on the other side using the word I invented.

    Awesome....

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Wow! That is truly asinine.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 1:26pm

    Re:

    Are you getting weaker?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Jun 25th, 2010 @ 2:06pm

    USPTO

    Why does the USPTO care? Are they trying to make sure revenue from copyright fees doesn't drop? Or are they just so captured that they're directly acting as a mouthpiece now?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 2:32pm

    Say one thing...

    ... do another. Obama, like most politicians, is a master at it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    jjmsan (profile), Jun 25th, 2010 @ 2:40pm

    Re:

    I don't thinks so. I am pretty sure I have seen your comments on techdirt on other days too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    DocMenach (profile), Jun 25th, 2010 @ 2:44pm

    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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 3:58pm

    New meme

    Think of the blind people!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Eugene (profile), Jun 25th, 2010 @ 5:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And yet, probably accurate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 6:39pm

    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 24x7 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...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 8:49pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    PrometheeFeu (profile), Jun 25th, 2010 @ 10:27pm

    Re:

    There nothing that can be done honestly. We are pretty much fucked. The best option I can see is to make enough money to drive things like the RIAA members out of business and then have some people I like more be in charge of paying off spineless politicians.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2010 @ 1:03am

    Re:

    Yes, because the US is evil and bad and all the people are morons. Right? That's what you're saying, isn't it? Get off your damn high horse, no political body truly represents the people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Cipher-0, Jun 26th, 2010 @ 4:44am

    A new approach?

    Is there a reason why book publishers cannot now be sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act for the deliberate freezing out of a disabled population? No one's expecting the publishers to convert for free, but how would text-to-speech not a reasonable accommodation?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2010 @ 5:31am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Bill Pickett, Jun 26th, 2010 @ 11:03am

    Power

    An insight I'd like to pass on to yourself:
    Motivation for such an extremely-pro approach to intellectual property laws. Revolves around money. Money is power. The old power structures seek preservation in the wave of new information structures.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Jun 26th, 2010 @ 12:39pm

    When was the last time that an administration actually was interesting in keeping the other side of copyright law equally balanced?

    When was the last time the corporations hadn't "donated" millions to campaign funds?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    coutreau, Jun 26th, 2010 @ 1:48pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    vivaelamor (profile), Jun 26th, 2010 @ 5:19pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    vivaelamor (profile), Jun 26th, 2010 @ 5:23pm

    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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2010 @ 5:41pm

    Re: Re:

    Maybe they're faking it to get at all those "free" books? But you know how the system works, they'd rather send one hundred innocent people to jail than let one guilty person free.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2010 @ 7:11pm

    Re: Re:

    when did you stop beating your wife?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2010 @ 7:32pm

    Re: Re:

    Perhaps you should read the various proposals before chiming in, with note being taken of what is encompassed by the term "disability" as used in each.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2010 @ 8:44pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Domestic violence, what vapid shit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2010 @ 8:44pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Did you know that most blind people aren't even 100% blind? Bunch of fakers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jun 26th, 2010 @ 9:03pm

    Let's remember that there are five RIAA guys in Obama's ear every day.

    He picked no one from EFF or another public organization to balance those ears and have him see reason. That's why he seems so... Well so one sided in everything.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 26th, 2010 @ 11:26pm

    Re:

    He picked no one from EFF or another public organization to balance those ears and have him see reason. That's why he seems so... Well so one sided in everything.

    That's not entirely true. There are a *few* people in the administration who understand these things. But they are greatly outnumbered.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2010 @ 1:02pm

    Re:

    > they are willing to completely contradict themselves
    > without any cognitive dissonance, as they seem to
    > assume that their constituents are morons.

    Their constituents are morons. They re-elected their representatives (an oxymoron, as do they really represent their constituency?)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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