Today is a good day. The treaty will be a reality and should be signed by Friday.
— World Blind Union (@BlindUnion) June 25, 2013
Only one week into the World Intellectual Property Organization’s conference in Morocco, and the diplomats have done their job!
Well, some of the diplomats anyway.
Over the course of the conference, international relations have been…….. well, international relations. Frustrations ran high. Patience wore thin. Agreements and concessions were hardly forthcoming.
Predictions that the MPAA and fellow copyright hardliners would push back hard against the treaty were pretty active. Of course, the treaty already excludes movies and now only covers books and written material. In that light, the MPAA’s keen interest seriously suspicious. But in light of a Freedom of Information request that recently revealed emails between the US Patent & Trademark offices and the MPAA members, it makes a little more sense. The MPAA is well aware that this treaty is a new and unique step in world relations: it enhances READER’s rights, rather than reinforcing PRODUCER’s rights. And that shakes the copyright brigade into action no matter what industry they come from.
Still, their interest is dubious, especially when considering just how completely and utterly NOT objectionable it is from a copyright standpoint.
The treaty does not change the function of copyright law, and it implements accessibility workarounds in line with what we already have here in the US. The treaty wording is very specific about authorized parties who may make or distribute accessible copies of books, and who can be authorized and how. It is very specific about authorized copies – or copies of books that authorized parties already have the right to make or distribute.
What the treaty does NOT do is turns librarians into pirates or hand a free pass to the Pirate Bay.
Of course, many in free-culture circles, myself included, do believe in furthering access to all cultural material and information for everyone – not just authorized parties making authorized books. But this treaty does not refer to everyone. It refers to a very specific subsect of people trying to get access to the same materials that everyone else already has. As much as us free-culture hippies would wish it, the WIPO treaty takes no substantial ground from the copyright monopoly.
But in addition to the frustrations, there has been also a fighting spirit in Morocco this week. Diplomats and blind advocacy groups have spoken up to remind world leaders everywhere of the real problems at hand: ending discriminatory treatment and bringing basic, equal access rights into the twenty first century.
And this week, just seven days after the conference began, their fighting spirit has prevailed.
This treaty is not perfect. And like all international treaties, is not much more than a symbolic gesture and agreement to do better. But the reaction to the signing shows just how important the agreement is. No matter what, it is a step in the right direction!
Please stay tuned on Twitter – and specifically my list of the best Tweeters reporting from the conference itself – for more updates on the finalized treaty!