On Thursday May 30, 2013, the leaders of the MPAA and the NFB issued a joint statement, followed by a joint press call involving Chris Dodd, the CEO of the MPAA, and Rick Maurer, the President of the NFB. The statement (copy below, called on negotiators to “get back to basics” and set out five principles that a treaty should embody. The one principle that will be subject to different interpretations is the reference to “Avoid addressing extraneous copyright issues.” During the press call, Chris Dodd said that in his opinion, that meant that
the treaty “should not undermine” technological protection measures used by copyright holders to block access to works, and also should not include mention of fair use, which under US law provides exceptions for certain uses such as libraries and journalists. These issues are “inappropriate and totally irrelevant,” he said.
He stressed, however, the importance of inclusion of the three-step test, which creates a hurdle to using exceptions and limitations, as it is consistent with international norms. This has been a contentious issue in the WIPO negotiations.
So, at least the MPAA thinks that “avoiding extraneous copyright issues means creating “a hurdle to using exceptions and limitations,” eliminating agreed upon references in the text to fair use, and eliminating text that would “‘undermine’ technological protection measures used by copyright holders to block access to works,” three controversial issues designed to narrow the benefits of the treaty for blind persons.
To put all of these issues into perspective, note first that the references in the text to the 3-step that were inserted at the request of the EU demands were nuanced to avoid changing international law, and agreed upon by negotiators in February of 2013, but found wanting by the MPAA precisely because they did not narrow exceptions enough. Second, note that blind persons in the United States (and elsewhere) benefit from fair use, and this language was also agreed upon by negotiators in February 2013. Third, note that in the United States and Europe, when TPMs are in fact considered an inappropriate barrier for enjoying exceptions, measures are taken to undermine the TPM regime, and the debate in the treaty concerns the standards, if any, under which circumvention or other remedies can be implemented by countries, to protect blind peoples. These are tough issues. They are not extraneous issue.
The NFB did not say these were extraneous issues. The MPAA did. What the press call seemed to illustrate is the limits of the NFB/MPAA agreement, in terms of actually avoiding conflicts or stalemates in the negotiations. The joint statement did, however, have other elements that seem less ambiguously helpful. For example, to recognize it was important to “take account of countries’ level of development” is a positive, on a topic that is a challenge in the negotiations.
The NFB has said it sees the joint statement as a measure of good faith from the MPAA, to be more constructive in the negotiations, and it probably will accomplish that aim, which is a good thing. Many think the MPAA got a public relations boost without conceding much in terms of substance, and KEI shares that view. But looking at the IP-Watch report from the press call, any speculation that the MPAA has stopped lobbying on the treaty provisions is wrong. One issue not addressed in the joint statement is the MPAA redline that audiovisual works be excluded from the treaty. If that position remains in the final version of the treaty, blind persons will not have rights to make training and education videos more accessible, and that is a bad thing, not to mention the elimination of deaf persons as beneficiaries of the treaty — another objective of the MPAA.
All parties in the negotiation, including of course the MPAA and the NFB, will continue to push for treaty provisions that reflect their values and interests.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date:
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Chris Danielsen, Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)
MPAA Washington, D.C.
Joint Statement By National Federation Of The Blind President Marc Maurer And Mpaa Chairman Senator Chris Dodd On Importance Of Completing Wipo Visually Impaired Treaty
Maurer, Dodd call for negotiators to get back to basics to ensure meaningful WIPO VIPT
WASHINGTON –National Federation of the Blind President Marc Maurer and MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd today released the following joint statement calling on WIPO VIPT negotiators to get back to basics to finish a meaningful treaty that expands access to published works for the visually impaired.
“NFB and MPAA call for the WIPO VIPT negotiators to get back to basics.
We fully support a Treaty that facilitates access to published works in the form of text, notation and/or related illustrations for the blind and print disabled to address the book famine wherein the blind and print disabled have access to less than five percent of published works worldwide.
The Treaty must achieve two overarching goals: creating exceptions and limitations in copyright law which allow published works to be converted into formats accessible to the blind and print disabled, and permitting accessible copies of published works to be shared across international borders.
Ultimately, we believe it should be for signatories to determine how they will implement the Treaty in accordance with their legal and administrative traditions. We underscore that this important Treaty must not be a vehicle for extraneous agendas. The goal remains, as it has been since the outset, a meaningful treaty to create greater access to published works for the visually impaired.
Such a treaty should embody the following core principles:
1. Support a legally-binding access Treaty which will allow more published works to be converted into accessible formats used by the blind and print disabled.
2. Allow those accessible copies to be shared across international borders.
3. Take account of countries’ level of development, in line with existing international provisions.
4. Ensure that the treaty will be fully consistent with international copyright norms.
5. Avoid addressing extraneous copyright issues not directly related to creating greater access to published works for the blind and print disabled.
Following these core elements will provide the proponents of this treaty with the goal they seek – greater access for the blind and print disabled – while at the same time not diverting time and resources to other agendas that serve no purpose in reaching the underlying goal. The NFB and MPAA share the objective of achieving a Treaty that facilitates access to published works by the blind and print disabled and believe this framework provides the best option for attaining a meaningful treaty in Marrakech. We are confident that negotiators can achieve this critical objective and also ensure that the instrument is fully consistent with the existing international copyright framework. Now is the time to refocus on this singular objective and cull the document of extraneous issues. We call on negotiators to work together, guided by the above principles, to ensure that Marrakech is a success.”