United States Ratifies Marrakesh Treaty, Facilitating Access by Blind and Visually Impaired to Published Works

On January 30, the United States Patent and Copyright Office (PTO) announced that on January 28, President Donald J. Trump had signed the documents to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled.  The Marrakech Treaty, which was adopted in 2013, is largely modeled on existing United States law.  With 48 other countries as Members of the Marrakech Treaty Assembly, it now constitutes part of the body of international copyright law that the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) administers.

The USPTO explained that the Treaty

is intended to reduce the global shortage of print materials in accessible formats for the many millions of persons who are blind, visually impaired, or have other print disabilities (such as physical limitations that prevent holding a book).

The treaty ensures, with appropriate safeguards for publishers, that copyright restrictions will not impede the creation and distribution of copies of published works in special formats accessible to these individuals. It also fosters the cross-border exchange of such copies internationally, allowing eligible U.S. citizens to obtain currently unavailable access to books published abroad.

Once the United States formally deposits the ratification documents that President Trump signed with the WIPO, 90 days later the Treaty will  enter into force for the United States.  That means, as the USPTO put it, that “U.S. nationals will be entitled to the benefits it provides in all of” the 48 other Treaty members.

Note: Legal and corporate compliance officers responsible for intellectual property issues in U.S. companies should take note of the United States’ ratification as a positive development to expand accessibility of published works for the blind and visually impaired.  They should track the date of deposit for the ratification instruments, to determine when the Treaty will enter into force for their and other U.S. companies.

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