MEPs ask for an exception to copyright rules to ensure blind people's access to books

The European Parliament adopted a resolution in which it calls on the Council and Commission to support a binding international treaty to make possible the access to books and other published works in special formats to blind people. The resolution says that to make it possible it is required a targeted exception to copyright rules.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is considering an international treaty to improve access to books for blind and other visually-impaired people, but EU representatives there have consistently opposed a legally-binding text, favouring voluntary recommendations instead. MEPs adopted a resolution in which they ask for binding rules to ensure blind people's access to books. In 2008, the Commission opened a consultation to improve website accessibility in Europe.

According to MEPs, blind and visually-impaired people in the EU have only severely restricted access to books and other printed products because 95% of all published works are never converted to accessible formats. Actually, only 5% of books are currently accessible to the blind in richer countries, and fewer than 1% in poorer ones. In addition, there is currently no international legal standard for a targeted exception to copyright rules enabling cross-border distribution of works in accessible formats.

World Blind Union, the European Blind Union and the British National Institute of Blind People presented a petition on this topic to the Petitions Committee. Now the Parliament passed the resolution. Any European Union citizen or resident may, individually or in association with others, submit a petition to the European Parliament on a subject which comes within the European Union's fields of activity and which affects her or him directly.