The dominance of international content industries in global copyright debates has historically confined disability rights to ad hoc limited exceptions to the general copyright monopoly. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities the suggests that a paradigm shift is necessary to reframe accessibility debates. By introducing positive obligations on member states to ‘take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities [can enjoy] access to cultural materials in accessible formats’, the CRPD requires states to move beyond ad hoc exceptions to copyright and towards internationally coordinated large-scale systematic attempts to reverse the book famine. The book famine in Australia and abroad should be a key policy priority, and the CRPD provides a clear positive obligation to address it. The Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (Marrakesh Treaty) sets out a framework for international cooperation in this regard. The Marrakesh Treaty promises to level out some of the disparity of access between people in developed and developing nations and remove the need for each jurisdiction to digitise a separate copy of each book. This is a remarkable advance, and in combination with the CRPD, this suggests the beginnings of a possible paradigm shift in global copyright politics. While the Marrakesh Treaty is an important step forward, much more needs to be done. This article canvasses a number of potential measures that Australia might implement to comply with the CRPD and begin to remove the inequitable barriers that blind people face in accessing written works.
28 November 2013
'Copyright Protections and Disability Rights: Turning the Page to a New International Paradigm' by Paul David Harpur and Nicolas Suzor in (2013) 36(3) University of New South Wales Law Journal argues that