Marrakesh Treaty on access to published works for blind and visually impaired persons: EU paves the way for ratification

Council of the EU
  • 10/05/2017
  • 22:00
  • Press release
  • 233/17
  • Single market
  • Enterprise and industry
  • Culture
10/05/2017
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The EU today cleared the final hurdle in the process of ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty, after the Maltese presidency secured an agreement with the European Parliament on implementing legislation.

"The long-awaited accession of the EU to the Marrakesh Treaty is set to become a reality. This is of huge importance since it ensures a basic human right to over 30 million visually impaired people across the EU, and improves the accessibility of books in developing countries".

Dr Christian Cardona, Maltese minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses 

Persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled continue to face many barriers in accessing books and other print material. The need to increase the number of works and other protected subject-matter available in accessible formats such as braille, audio-books and large print, has been recognised at international level.

The proposals agreed today will introduce into EU law a new mandatory exception to copyright rules, in line with the Marrakesh Treaty. This will allow beneficiary persons and organisations to make copies of works in accessible formats, and to disseminate them across the EU and in third countries which are party to the Treaty.

A regulation will implement the Union's obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty with respect to the exchange of accessible format copies for non-commercial purposes between the EU and third countries that are party to the Marrakesh Treaty.

A directive will incorporate the obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty into national domestic legislation. This will ensure an improvement in the availability of accessible format copies for beneficiary persons and their circulation within the internal market.

Background

The Treaty, which was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Marrakesh in June 2013, forms part of the body of copyright treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). The Treaty entered into force on 30 September 2016. It has a cultural, humanitarian and social development dimension.

The Marrakesh Treaty was signed by the EU in April 2014. However, a legal question on whether the Union has exclusive competence to conclude the Marrakesh Treaty delayed the ratification process.

The Commission asked for an opinion from the European Court of Justice in August 2015. The Court confirmed the exclusive competence of the Union on 14 February 2017. It also clarified that the Marrakesh Treaty does not come within the ambit of the common commercial policy.

On 14 September 2016, the Commission submitted a draft regulation and a draft directive and the European Parliament voted on the proposals on 23 March 2017.

Next steps

The regulation and the directive will have to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.

Afterwards, the provisions of the directive will be enacted in each national legislation within a maximum period of 12 months.

Following the adoption of a Council decision authorising the conclusion of the Marrakesh Treaty, the EU will be able to deposit the ratification instruments of the Treaty.