Views on the outcome of WIPO SCCR 18: Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay Treaty for Reading Disabilities

On Friday, May 29, the 18th Session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) agreed to consider a proposal submitted by the governments of Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay Relating to Limitations and Exceptions on a Treaty for Reading Disabled Persons at its next meeting in November 2009 (19th Session). KEI has collated views on the outcome of the 18th SCCR from the following countries and NGOs.

Views on the outcome of WIPO SCCR 18: Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay Treaty for Reading Disabled Persons

Carolina Belmar, Head Intellectual Property Department, General Directorate for International Economic Relations

Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Chile

“The Chilean Government is satisfied with the results of the 18th SCCR. The agreed conclusions reflect what seems to be a balanced agenda, where limitations and exceptions are given an appropriate level of importance. In particular various concrete steps were agreed to be developed at the inter-sessional level. However, Chile regrets that a GRULAC proposal to devote one day of the next SCCR for an informative session for visually impaired persons (VIP) and libraries was not approved by other members before reaching the plenary session. In our opinion this proposal was in line with a broader discussion on L&E within WIPO”.

Chris Friend, Chair WBU Global Right to Read Campaign, World Blind Union

“Unfortunately the Rights Holders want their cake and eat it. Having voluntarily suspended their own economic interests in their rights by deciding not to produce accessible products for the visually impaired reading community, they then lobby Governments to try and prevent the community from securing Copyright Exceptions which would permit the cross border exchange and sharing of current collections of hundreds of thousands of accessible books between same language groups of VI readers around the world.

Thankfully Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay Delegations tabled at SCCR 18 the Draft Treaty Proposal put forward by WBU and this received good support from many developing country Delegations whose VI communities seek this equality and justice. WBU believes that the Treaty is an essential component of a twin-track approach to finalising an equitable and balanced solution and an end to the Book Famine. The WBU is seeking convergence with the Publishers on a number of operational issues, but the Treaty will further guarantee their right of access especially on the cross-border issue.”

Teresa Hackett

Electronic Information for Libraries (

A copyright treaty proposal for reading-disabled people, the first ever in favour of a user community. Focussed debate and many constructive contributions. Conclusions that enable discussion on all exceptions and limitations to continue. The sun was shining brightly outside. It was a historic week at WIPO.

Embajador Mauricio Montalvo (Ambassador Maurcio Montalvo),

Representante Permanente del Ecuador ante las Naciones Unidas – Ginebra Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations, (Geneva)

  • Durante el SCCR/18, la OMPI dio un paso muy saludable al abordar temas de Derechos Humanos y Propiedad Intelectual.
  • En el SCCR/18 se mostró la cara humana de la propiedad intelectual.
  • La propuesta de Ecuador, Brasil y Paraguay busca que la propiedad intelectual vaya en beneficio de las personas con discapacidad para la lectura, en lugar de que aquella constituya un obstáculo más en sus vidas. Aspiramos además que este beneficio se extienda en el futuro a personas con otro tipo de discapacidad.

Kenneth Félix Haczynski da Nóbrega, Head of the Intellectual Property Division

Ministry of External Affairs, Brazil

“I am very pleased that Members recognized the merit of keeping working on

limitations and exceptions for visually impaired persons, on the basis of
the proposal put forward by Brazil, Equator and Paraguay. I believe that
WIPO is taking an important step as a specialized agency of the United
Nations, contributing to UN efforts on enhancing access to knowledge for the
most vulnerable or socially prioritized sectors. The establishment of formal
negotiations on limitations and exceptions for visually impaired persons is
also a great contribution to the broader aims of the exceptions and
limitations agenda.”

Dan Pescod, Campaigns Manager, Europe,International and Accessibility

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

“The WIPO-Commissioned Sullivan Study showed that there is a legal barrier where transfer of accessible works across borders is concerned, and that relatively few countries have exceptions in their national laws for reading disabled people. Both factors hinder our work in producing and sharing accessible books for print disabled people.

The solution we have identified is to remove these barriers via a WIPO treaty. Opponents say we should not try to change copyright rules to allow us to do the job better. Rather, we should talk to rights holders

and hope that this leads to them making their works accessible. But why can we not do both? I was delighted that Brazil,Ecuador and Paraguay formally made a proposal for a treaty on access for visually impaired and reading disabled people, and that this gathered such wide support from the Committee. We’ll certainly work hard to ensure that this progresses in the second half of 2009.”

Manon Ress, Information Society Projects, Knowledge Ecology International

We expected the Obama Administration to be more supportive of a treaty to address the cross-border sharing of accessible works. The United States actually spent more time on this issue than other ‘Group B’ countries, and was well aware of all of the important reasons for a new global instrument: The legal uncertainly over cross-border sharing of works, the very limited role of voluntary licensing of works, the recent disabling of text to speech by all Random House owned ebooks, the enormous inefficiencies of making duplicative accessible format versions of works, and the paucity of works available to reading disabled persons, particularly in developing countries, or in foreign languages.

The US associated itself with the Group B position that discussion of *any* instrument dealing with cross border issues was “premature.” The conversation goes back at least to 1981 at WIPO, and has been raised every year since 2002 in the SCCR. It is not “premature” but rather “overdue” to consider concrete proposals to overcome the barriers to sharing accessible works across borders.

This was a human rights issue, and the U.S. government was on the wrong side. The US government should have co-sponsored the treaty proposal. Instead it practically read from the publishing industry’s talking points.

Dr. Alfredo Scafati, President – Copyright Council, Ministry of Education and Culture, Uruguay.


“Las conclusiones del SCCR reflejan el compromiso de un gran número de Estados por encontrar una solución a la problemática que afecta a los discapacitados visuales, por una falta de armonización internacional en el ámbito de las excepciones al derecho de autor. Cuestión que es de gran importancia para el Consejo de Derechos de autor de Uruguay a la luz de nuestro compromiso con los derechos humanos de todas las personas, hombres, mujeres, niñas, niños y jovenes.


“The conclusions of the SCCR reflect the commitment of many States to find a solution to the problems affecting the visually impaired by a lack of international harmonization in the field of copyright exceptions. This topic is very important to the Copyright Council of Uruguay, by our commitment to human rights of all people, men, women and children.”