KEI critical of Canada’s Bill C-32 provisions on export of accessible works for persons with disabilities

A new copyright bill in Canada includes extensive provisions about the export of accessible works for persons with a “print disability.” The good news is that they embrace a reasonably good definition of disabilities covered. It goes down hill from there.

While Canada does propose to expand somewhat the ability to export works in accessible formats for persons with disabilities, they have also set out an extraordinarily narrow path for doing so. Taken together, at a moment when the WIPO SCCR is entering important negotiations on cross border exceptions, the Canadian action is harmful, for aiming so low.

Here are some quick comments:

    The good

  1. The definition of print disability seems very inclusive, including not only “severe or total impairment of sight or the inability to focus or move one’s eyes” but the “inability to hold or manipulate a book” or “an impairment relating to comprehension.”
  2. The confusing

  3. The Act focuses on “a format specially designed for persons with a print disability,” making it unnecessarily ambiguous when it comes to formats that are “accessible” to both persons with disabilities and the general population. We would prefer to use the term “accessible formats.”
  4. The bad

  5. There are several important limitations to the export authority, including:
    1. The export provision would be limited to cases where the author is a citizen or resident of Canada or the country where the copy is sent.
    2. Large print books or cinematographic works would be excluded. How will this be interpreted for electronic files that are distributed for readers that have the option to provide large type on an electronic display?
    3. Royalties must be paid, either to the author, or to a collection society.
    4. The export cannot take place if the format “specially designed for persons with a print disability . . . is available in that country within a reasonable time and for a reasonable price, and may be located in that country with reasonable effort.”
    5. The exception is only available to non-profit entities, and
    6. Exports may be limited to intermediaries that have contracts with the non-profit entity.

The limitations are quite restrictive, and suggest that Canada opposes the World Blind Union proposal, which would cover any authors, regardless of their nationality or residency, any accessible format, so long was the work is “supplied exclusively to be used by” persons with disabilities, would not require royalties if the “activity is undertaken on a non-profit basis,” would allow both non-profit and commercial entities to use exceptions, and would only limit the availability of the exception to the commercial users when a work is available from another source, at a “reasonable” price in developed countries, and at an “affordable” price in developing countries.

The Canadian government and Parliament may want to reflect on the fairly recent experiment passing legislation to implement paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health. While, like here, Canada was early in framing a legislative approach to a new demand for cross border use of an exception, most observers say that Canada’s first effort was a failure, because of the many restrictions and burdensome procedures. Indeed, the WTO TRIPS Council is now debating proposals to hold further meetings to determine what went wrong with its 30 August 2003 decision regarding exports of medicines under a compulsory license. (See here, and here).

This legislative approach in bill c-32 as regards copyright exceptions for disabilities provides the government with a pretense of having addressed a widely recognized problem, but without actually making things better. Indeed, by providing such a negative model for action, Canada gives creditability to the argument that this topic is too controversial to be addressed in a global treaty. By design, it undermines the WBU position in the current SCCR negotiations. We are quite disappointed.

The bill follows

Canada: Bill C-32

37. The Act is amended by adding the following after section 32:

Sending copies outside Canada

32.01 (1) Subject to this section, it is not an infringement of copyright for ac acting for the benefit of persons with a print disability to make a copy, in a format specially designed for persons with a print disability, of a work and to send the copy to a non-profit organization in another country for use by persons with print disabilities in that country, if the author of the work that is reformatted is

(a) a Canadian citizen or permanent resident within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; or

(b) a citizen or permanent resident of the country to which the copy is sent.


(2) Subsection (1) does not authorize a large print book or a cinematographic work to be sent outside Canada.


Work available in country

(3) Subsection (1) does not authorize a copy to be sent to a country if the organization knows or has reason to believe that the work, in the format specially designed for persons with a print disability, is available in that country within a reasonable time and for a reasonable price, and may be located in that country with reasonable effort.


(4) The organization making and sending the copy shall pay, in accordance with the regulations, any royalty established under the regulations to the copyright owner in the work.

If copyright owner cannot be located

(5) If the organization cannot locate the copyright owner, despite making reasonable efforts to do so, the organization shall pay, in accordance with the regulations, any royalty established under the regulations to a collective society.


(6) The organization making and sending the copy shall submit reports to an authority in accordance with the regulations on the organization’s activities under this section.


(7) The Governor in Council may make regulations

(a) requiring a non-profit organization that seeks to send a copy outside Canada to, before doing so, enter into a contract with the recipient non-profit organization with respect to the use of the copy;
(b) respecting the form and content of such contracts;
(c) respecting any royalties to be paid under subsections (4) and (5);
(d) respecting to which collective society a royalty is payable in relation to works or classes of works for the purposes of subsection (5);
(e) respecting what constitutes reasonable efforts for the purposes of subsection (5); and
(f) respecting the reports to be made, and the authorities to which the reports are to be submitted, under subsection (6).

Meaning of “print disability”

(8) In this section, “print disability” means a disability that prevents or inhibits a person from reading a literary, musical or dramatic work in its original format, and includes such a disability resulting from

(a) severe or total impairment of sight or the inability to focus or move one’s eyes;
(b) the inability to hold or manipulate a book; or
(c) an impairment relating to comprehension.

37. La même loi est modifiée par adjonction, après l’article 32, de ce qui suit :

Envoi d’oeuvres à l’étranger

32.01 (1) Sous réserve des autres dispositions du présent article, ne constitue pas une violation du droit d’auteur le fait, pour un organisme sans but lucratif agissant dans l’intérêt des personnes ayant une déficience de lecture des imprimés, de reproduire une oeuvre sur un support destiné à ces personnes et d’envoyer la reproduction à un autre organisme sans but lucratif dans un autre pays à l’intention des personnes ayant une telle déficience dans ce pays si l’auteur de l’oeuvre mise sur ce support est soit un citoyen canadien ou un résident permanent au sens du paragraphe 2(1) de la Loi sur l’immigration et la protection des réfugiés, soit un citoyen ou un résident permanent du pays de destination.


(2) Le paragraphe (1) n’a pas pour effet de permettre l’envoi à l’étranger d’une oeuvre cinématographique ou d’un livre imprimé en gros caractères.

Existence d’exemplaires sur le marché

(3) Le paragraphe (1) ne s’applique pas si l’organisme sans but lucratif sait ou a des motifs de croire qu’il est possible de se procurer l’oeuvre — sur un support destiné aux personnes ayant une déficience de lecture des imprimés — dans le pays de destination, à un prix et dans un délai raisonnables, et de la trouver moyennant des efforts raisonnables.

Redevances au titulaire du droit d’auteur

(4) L’organisme qui fait la reproduction et l’envoie à l’étranger verse conformément aux règlements les redevances réglementaires au titulaire du droit d’auteur.

Titulaire du droit d’auteur introuvable

(5) Si l’organisme est incapable de trouver le titulaire du droit d’auteur, malgré des efforts sérieux déployés à cette fin, il verse les redevances réglementaires à une société de gestion conformément aux règlements.


(6) L’organisme qui fait la reproduction et l’envoie à l’étranger fait rapport sur ses activités dans le cadre du présent article en conformité avec les règlements.


(7) Le gouverneur en conseil peut prendre des règlements :

a) exigeant la conclusion d’un contrat, préalablement à l’envoi de la reproduction, entre l’organisme qui l’envoie et celui qui la reçoit relativement à l’utilisation de celle-ci;

b) prévoyant la forme et le contenu du contrat;
c) concernant les redevances à verser au titre des paragraphes (4) et (5);
d) concernant les sociétés de gestion à qui verser les redevances à l’égard d’oeuvres, ou de catégories d’oeuvres, pour l’application du paragraphe (5);
e) concernant ce qui constitue des efforts sérieux pour l’application du paragraphe (5);
f) concernant les rapports à faire au titre du paragraphe (6) et l’autorité à qui les communiquer

Définition de « déficience de lecture des imprimés »

(8) Au présent article, « déficience de lecture des imprimés » s’entend de toute déficience qui empêche la lecture d’une oeuvre littéraire, dramatique ou musicale sur le support original ou la rend difficile, en raison notamment :

a) de la privation en tout ou en grande partie du sens de la vue ou de l’incapacité d’orienter le regard;
b) de l’incapacité de tenir ou de manipuler un livre;
c) d’une insuffisance relative à la compréhension.