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Archived - The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act and the Marrakesh Treaty

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Almost one million Canadians live with blindness or partial sight. For these individuals, it can be especially difficult to find print material in a format that is both accessible and easy to use. More can be done to ensure that copyright laws do not create additional barriers for those with a print disability and that users have access to the latest and best published material from around the world.

To address this issue, the Government committed in Economic Action Plan 2015 to implement and join the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act is an important step toward fulfilling that promise.

The Bill

Canada's current copyright framework already contains exceptions that allow for the making and distribution of accessible-format copies for the benefit of persons with perceptual disabilities. To ensure that these are fully in line with the Marrakesh Treaty and to enable Canada to accede to the Treaty, the bill will make targeted amendments to the Copyright Act. The proposed amendments maintain the important balance in Canada's copyright framework between the interests of copyright owners and users.

Persons with disabilities and supporting organizations

The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act will allow, within specific parameters, persons with disabilities, and the organizations that support them, to make and distribute accessible-format versions of works, including large-print books.

The bill will allow the sending of accessible-format copies to other countries, regardless of the nationality of authors, facilitating the cross-border exchange of works in accessible formats with supporting organizations in other countries.

The bill also specifies that technological protection measures (or digital locks) may be circumvented in order to provide access to persons with perceptual disabilities. The amendments remove the condition that the lock not be unduly impaired but require that circumvention be done solely for the benefit of such persons.

These measures will bring benefits to many different groups of Canadians with print disabilities:

  • Students will have better access to print materials, helping them continue with their studies and better engage in the Canadian workforce. According to recent survey data, approximately 35 percent of visually impaired students discontinue their education because of their condition.
  • Workers will have greater opportunities. Current data suggests that approximately one third of Canadians who are visually impaired are not in the labour force.
  • Seniors—the group with the highest rates of visual impairment—will have better access to reading materials, which helps maintain their quality of life.
  • Canadians from minority language groups will have better access to books in a variety of languages.
  • Schools, libraries and charitable organizations that work with Canadians who are print disabled will benefit from reduced duplication in the production of accessible works.

Protecting authors and publishers

The Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act also includes important safeguards to ensure that the legitimate interests of authors and publishers are respected.

Safeguards will apply where accessible-format copies are already commercially available. For domestic use and imports, the exceptions do not apply where an accessible-format version is commercially available under reasonable terms in the Canadian market. For exports, the exceptions do not permit the sending of an accessible-format copy to another country if it is commercially available under reasonable terms in that foreign market, but the remedies that may be sought against non-profit organizations are limited in such circumstances.

Finally, other key safeguards, such as protections for the moral rights of creators, and the civil remedies available against those who enable online copyright infringement will continue to apply.

The Marrakesh Treaty

The Marrakesh Treaty aims to bring the global community together to better address the universal challenge of ensuring timely access to, and wider availability of, printed material for those who are visually impaired.

The Treaty sets international standards on certain exceptions to copyright so that print materials can be adapted into formats—such as Braille and audiobooks—that visually impaired and print-disabled individuals can use. The Treaty also makes it possible to distribute accessible-format copies between countries. The negotiations for the Treaty were led by the World Intellectual Property Organization, a United Nations agency with 188 member states. The Treaty will come into force once 20 countries have ratified or acceded to it. As of June 4, 2015, eight countries—Argentina, El Salvador, India, Mali, Paraguay, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay—have ratified or acceded to the Treaty. By acceding to the Marrakesh Treaty, Canada would become the first G7 nation to be fully compliant and would assume a leadership role on this important issue.

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Hon. James Moore Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada Economics and Industry

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