New draft rules to make more books available in formats designed for blind and visually impaired people were approved by the Legal Affairs Committee on Thursday. The draft legislation, which brings EU law into line with the Marrakesh Treaty, provides for copyright exceptions for formats such as audiobooks and Braille.
Two legislative resolutions, both approved by 22 votes to 0, with no abstentions, drafted by Max Andersson (Greens/EFA, SE) aim to increase the number of books, journals, newspapers, magazines and sheet music available to people who are blind, visually impaired or have other problems reading print. The draft legislation would bring the EU’s law into line with its international commitments under the Marrakesh Treaty, signed by the EU in 2014.
The draft rules provide for mandatory copyright exceptions to allow the production of accessible format copies of books and other print material. MEPs agreed that member states should not be allowed to impose any additional requirements on these copyright exceptions, such as compensation schemes for publishers or commercial availability checks prior to the exchange of accessible format books.
Furthermore, the new rules would ensure cross-border circulation of accessible format books inside the EU and with non-EU countries that have signed the Marrakesh Treaty.
Today, people with visual impairments face many barriers in accessing print material. In the EU, the share of books available to them in accessible formats such as Braille, large print, adapted e-books and audiobooks, is estimated at between 7% and 20%.
The committee approved a mandate to start informal talks with the Council on the two legislative resolutions with a view to reaching a first-reading agreement.
The European Blind Union estimates that there are upwards of 30 million blind and partially sighted persons in Europe, and the World Blind Union puts the worldwide figure at 285 million. While estimates of the share of published books available in accessible formats for visually impaired persons range from 7% to 20% in the EU, in developing countries it is estimated to be as low as 1%.