Help end the book famine for the blind

The blind and print disabled of the world need your help. John G. Paré Jr., Executive Director for Advocacy and Policy for the National Federation of the Blind, is promoting a petition to open copyright laws to allow publication of books in special formats like Braille and to be shared across international borders.

John G. Paré Jr. writes:

Dear Friends:

Blind and print-disabled people in the United States and across the world need your help to relieve the worldwide book famine that prevents us from receiving an education, attaining employment, and fully participating in society. The World Intellectual Property Organization is considering a treaty that would make more books available to blind and print-disabled people all over the world by promoting an exception to copyright law allowing books to be produced in special formats like Braille and to be shared across international borders. This treaty is called the Treaty for the Blind or the VIP Treaty. Unfortunately, publishers, big media, and other rights holders like GE and Caterpillar, some of whom have nothing to do with the publishing of books at all, are complicating the negotiations in an attempt to water down or kill the treaty. You can help by sending a strong message that you support a treaty that helps the blind and print disabled get access to more books. Please sign the petition at the link below.

Also, please share the petition link with your family, friends, and others who you feel will support this effort.

Thank you for your support.

John G. Paré Jr.
Executive Director for Advocacy and Policy NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

An additional possibility

While I support the concept expressed in the petition (and will probably sign it), there is another approach that could work in parallel with this and does not depend on international law or treaty.

Copyright owners can legally grant limited permissions for their intellectual property as they see fit. What about a campaign to persuade publishers to voluntarily grant this exemption in their copyright notices? For example, add a notice the effect of

"Permission is expressly granted to reproduce this document in Braille format for the purpose of accessibility to people with visual impairments, provided it is distributed for free or for a nominal charge to cover production costs only, and not for commercial profit, that the redistribution does not claim copyright ownership of this work, and that this original copyright notice is retained verbatim."

I am no lawyer, so I am sure the above would need some tweaking, but one would think something like this could help.

Again, I would not argue this as a replacement for the international treaty, but rather as an interim solution until that can be achieved.