United States of America Joins WIPO’s Marrakesh Treaty as 50th Member

ACB Joins all of its U.S. partner organizations in celebrating the final diplomatic step for the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland on February 8, 2019. ACB President Kim Charlson is a member of the Board of Directors of the Accessible Books Consortium, the WIPO entity working on implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty with the fifty member countries. She is also working with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped/Library of Congress in planning for the implementation of the treaty in the U.S.

The World Intellectual Property Organization issued a statement on February 8, 2019 from its headquarters in Geneva announcing that the United States has become the 50th member of the Marrakesh Treaty. Because the European Union comprises 28 states, the number of countries now adhering to the treaty comes to 78.

The official notification ratification document from Washington signed by Donald Trump has been accepted by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director Francis Gurry, with Mark Cassayre, the Chargé d’Affaires for the American mission to the United Nations’ installation in Geneva.

And with that, as many as 550,000 accessible texts have become immediately available to visually impaired people in the countries that have signed the treaty. A full list of those countries is here.

The treaty is designed to facilitate access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled by creating a universal copyright exception that will allow authorized parties to “travel” accessible formats to appropriate consumers.

“The Marrakesh Treaty is WIPO’s fastest-growing treaty and we hope it becomes a universal one soon, so visually impaired people in every corner of the globe can more easily benefit from learning and culture no matter where it is created," said Mr. Gurry. “The US already houses the world’s largest repository of accessible English-language material, representing a major increase in the global resource base for visually impaired people living in countries that have joined the Marrakesh Treaty.”

“I’m proud of American leadership and the USPTO’s efforts in the negotiation of the Marrakesh Treaty, and the opportunities that our ratification creates for the blind and visually impaired community in the United States and around the world,” said Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). “This treaty establishes an important mechanism to both protect intellectual property rights and expand access to information and resources.”

“We pause to celebrate this moment as the United States formally joins the Marrakesh Treaty," said Maria A. Pallante, President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers. “Having worked so tirelessly with so many talented partners to realize a better legal framework for accessible formats, publishers now salute the many readers throughout the world who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise living with print disabilities. Congratulations and happy reading!"

“The United States’ formal membership in the Marrakesh Treaty marks a major achievement for our country and a significant positive step forward for the millions of persons who are blind and visually impaired throughout the world,” said Karyn A. Temple, Acting Register of Copyrights and Director of the United States Copyright Office. “The United States will now join our fellow nations in promoting greater accessibility to print materials around the globe.”

Information about the Marrakesh Treaty is available at the WIPO site here, and the documents, including a summary, are available here. They include versions in Braille, full audio, and Daisy format.