Group B Countries, including the United States, 17 members of the European Union, Canada, Switzerland, the Holy See, and others, argued last week that consideration of *any* instrument to set norms for access to works by persons who are blind or have reading disabilities was “premature.” Others suggest action is “overdue.” In fact, the debate is quite old.
In 1981, the governing bodies of WIPO and UNESCO agreed to create a Working Group on Access by the Visually and Auditory Handicapped to Material Reproducing Works Produced by Copyright. The members of the working group were appointed by the Director Generals of WIPO and UNESCO. The working group was asked to consider the possibilities of using exceptions under the Berne Convention to expand access to protected works, and to prepare model legislation. This group met in Paris on October 25, 27, 1982, in a meeting chaired by Mihály Ficsor, and issued a report. I am grateful to Mihály for calling this meeting to my attention and providing a copy of the meeting report, which I have put on the web here:
Bit mapped copy of report:
Update: Two accessible versions provided by Claude Almansi are now also available:
As is clear from the report, the debate in 1982 was similar in many respects to the debate today, with attention to issues such as remuneration or non-remunerative exceptions, whether or not exceptions should be avoided in favor of private negotiations with copyright owners, and how to prevent the accessible works being used by members of the general public. The parties involved in the negotiations were very much the same cast of players that were in Geneva this week trying to promote or block the treaty proposal. The one thing that is different from 1982 is the current emphasis on the cross-border transport of works.