In Geneva this week the US government is taking a harder line in the WIPO negotiations for a treaty on copyright exceptions for the blind, and the reason is simple — lobbyists for the MPAA and publishers have been all over the White House, demanding a retreat from compromises made in February, and demanding that the Obama Administration push new global standards for technical protection measures, strip the treaty text of any reference to fair use and fair dealing, and impose new financial liabilities on libraries that serve blind people. So far the industry lobbying has worked, and the White House has sided with publishers against blind people. Dan Pescod from the World Blind Union says the conditions the USA are imposing are so severe the treaty “won’t work”, if they are included in the final text.
John Kerry’s Department of State has recently told African countries the USA wants to eliminate the fair use and fair practices language that was part of a February deal that include nuanced language on the copyright three step test, which would be used to narrow the exception for blind people. By eliminating the fair use and fair practices language, the USA seeks to further shift the balance of the text against blind persons.
Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis has also backed the publishers against blind groups on a range of issues, and is using language from our most restrictive bilateral FTA agreements with small countries to justify the changes they demand in the treaty for the blind.
The US position on the technical protection measure issues is aligned with the EU. Generally siding with the WBU are the Africa, Asia and Latin American groups, as well as Switzerland, Canada, Australia and other OECD countries.
In previous negotiations, the Obama Administration successfully demanded that deaf people be excluded from the treaty, and audio visual works, even those used in education and training, be off limits to the treaty.
Some US negotiators are uncomfortable with the intensive lobbying by the MPAA and other publishers, but dismayed by the lack of backbone in the White House to resist such pressures.