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.