This is a call to arms, TUEBLovers! The next ten days are crucial in the battle for access to creative and cultural material. Today in Morocco, representatives from over a hundred countries are meeting to discuss a treaty to improve blind and visually impaired individuals’ access to books.
Can you imagine, fellow bookworms, if your vast library of beloved books were cut down to just a few, and if even though the technology existed to give you the ability to read the entire library, that laws were enacted to prevent it?
Yeah, that’s intellectual property law for you.
The Washington Post articulates the startling reality:
“Only about five percent of books are converted into formats that the blind community can use… That dearth of material not only keeps blind people from reading popular books but also from getting access to educational texts and other professional literature.”
FIVE! And to think that there is no physical reason why, in the twenty first century anyone should be shut out of so much of the world’s reading material. We have the technological capability to remove the restriction of a person’s disability and allow everyone access to books, in whatever format they can use. And yet - five percent!
Fortunately, people are mad.
And diplomats from all around the world are convening to do something about it.
It is hard to imagine that anyone could in good conscience oppose this step. Of course, it’s also hard to imagine how we could have gotten into this situation in the first place, and yet here we are. The Whitehouse, for one, has stopped vocalizing support for the treaty (gee thanks, land of opportunity) and rightsholders all over seem to be shitting themselves in fear over what will happen if blind people are allowed to read like everyone else.
But more insidious than any outright opposition to the treaty is the suspicious support it’s gotten from certain parties. The MPAA for example. Yeah the MPAA – aka. the biggest copyright trolls ever. The MPAA supporting people’s rights to access material? Horray! Maybe they’ve seen the light!
Cory Doctorow explains their deceptively altruistic move to support the international treaty:
“Rather than promoting the US approach — which allows for the creation of works in accessible formats without permission — the US Trade Rep and his friends from the MPAA are advocating for a treaty that is far more restrictive than US law, ensuring that the US itself could never sign it.“
In other words, in supporting the treaty, they appear to care about the plight of disabled individuals, while simultaneously using their support and influence to render the treaty useless.
Nice. Thanks, MPAA.
Chris Danielsen of the National Federation for the Blind, has this to say, and I think we – and every single diplomat at this conference – should listen to him:
So please, TUEBLovers! Even if you’re not a diplomat with a spot at this conference, you can still speak up. Sign the petition. Make noise. Spread the word. Bitch about it. Tell everyone. Let the world know that you’re NOT okay with anyone being denied the ability to read!
The conference plenary sessions will be streamed live and it looks like videos of the sessions will continue to be available for reference later. I will do my best to watch as much as I can and spread the word. So if you don’t have time to watch a conference on the other side of the world, follow me on twitter and keep your eyes on this blog for updates!