Negotiations over a treaty on limitations and exceptions to copyright for the visually impaired are concluding at the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights. The proposed treaty would reduce copyright barriers to reading materials in formats for the visually impaired, such as braille and audio. Early reports indicate that, despite strong support for the treaty among many countries, the U.S. and EU have blocked further forward movement in the negotiations.
On Tuesday, the United States and the European Union informally asked developing nations to postpone any talks about approving a treaty until after the U.S. election, according to delegates at the negotiations who were granted anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the talks. Advocates for the blind, who have spent years pushing for a treaty, have urged that one be finalized at the current round of negotiations. The talks are in Geneva, and are scheduled to conclude Wednesday. Negotiators have not officially considered any plan to delay talks.
During this week, the EU in particular, which has assembled a team of hardliners such as Dr. Silke von Lewinski, has pushed for all sorts of publisher friendly language in the text, which if accepted takes it down the road of the Appendix to the Berne or Paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration, as a model for an agreement that will be hard to use. It is worth noting that the EU proposals are not rooted in EU legal traditions, which include robust exceptions for disabilities, but rather EU publisher wish lists. In effect, the publishers and the EU wants to turn the project into new international norms by turning exceptions into highly regulated extended licensing agreements only to be used in limited cases. The US is not resisting the EU efforts in this regard.
On the visually impaired, progress was made on the text, but it seems unlikely that there will be an outright decision to recommend a diplomatic conference (high-level negotiation) in 2013 … There was optimism among many going into the meeting that a decision might be made this week to recommend a diplomatic conference, but the developed countries appear to opposed to it, though they have not made direct statements about it.