Thursday, June 24, 2010

USA tries to block copyright treaty that would assist blind people, those with reading disabilities

From James Love at The Huffington Post:

June 24 a UN body is trying to reach an agreement on work on copyright exceptions for persons who are blind or have other disabilities. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is aggressively trying to block adoption of a work program that would include the possibility of a treaty. Officially, the USPTO is proposing an alternative approach that could be a step toward a treaty. Privately, the USPTO and other federal agencies are putting enormous pressure on countries to abandon a binding treaty in favor in a very weak and even harmful resolution.

The negotiations are taking place in a four day meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). This committee is considering several different issues, including a possible new treaty for broadcasting organizations, a possible new treaty for audiovisual performers. and proposals for work on exceptions to copyright for libraries, archives and education.

Many have considered the most promising area for work on new norm setting to be the topic of exceptions in copyright for persons who are blind or have other disabilities. There are more than a dozen blindness and other disability organizations here on this topic.

There are four different proposals to deal with this issue, including proposals for a treaty on disabilities by Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Mexico (BEPM) for a treaty, a proposal for a broader treaty by the African Group, and two much narrower non-binding recommendations proposed by the European Union and the United States.

June 23 there was an effort to negotiate an agreement that work would continue on all four proposals. This morning there are several reports that Justin Hughes from the USPTO blew up negotiations with bitter confrontation with Brazil over next steps.

The U.S. has been trying to avoid adoption of any work program that would include elements of the BEPM and African Group proposals.