Across Borders Access to Published Works by Visually Impared Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities

Close-up of Braille page courtesy of Lrcg2012 under CC BY-SA 3.0

“It is humbling to know that when the weakest amongst us is in need, you answered the call with a steely determination and a steadfast courage to make a difference,” Stevie Wonder told delegates as they signed the treaty. “Today we all are brothers and sisters in the struggle to make this life and the future better, not for one, but for all.”

On June 28, 2018, the U.S. Senate approved the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (bill S. 2559) without apparent opposition; the House approved S.2559 via unanimous consent on September 25, 2018. The bill and the Treaty were signed into law by the President this past Tuesday.

This law makes changes to U.S. copyright law that would bring the United States into compliance with the terms of the Marrakesh Treaty.  The treaty, which so far is ratified by forty-three countries, facilitates the reproduction and cross-border distribution of books in accessible formats.

Once the State Department notifies the World Intellectual Property Organization—the treaty’s administrator—of its ratification, the Library of Congress, National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handcapped will provide guidance on how it will impact NLS and its network libraries.

“An estimated 253 million people live with vision impairment: 36 million are blind and 217 million have moderate to severe vision impairment. 81% of people who are blind or have moderate or severe vision impairment are aged 50 years and above.” World Health Organization

The Marrakish Treaty Implementation Act allows for copyright exceptions to facilitate the creation of accessible versions of books and other copyrighted works for visually impaired persons. It sets a norm for countries ratifying the treaty to have a domestic copyright exception covering these activities, and allowing for the import and export of such materials.

Sixty three (recently 28 European countries also ratified) countries signed the treaty as of the close of the diplomatic conference in Marrakesh. The ratification of 20 states was required for the treaty to enter into effect; the 20th ratification was received on 30 June 2016, and the treaty entered into force on 30 September 2016.

India was the first country to ratify the treaty, on 24 July 2014.< As of June 26, 2018, 80 countries have signed the Treaty and 41 states have ratified it , most recently EU and Japan.

In March 2015, the Council of the European Union accused the European Commission of delaying the adoption of the treaty by EU and called upon the Commission “to submit without delay the necessary legislative proposal.” There is continued opposition by some EU member states.[

On September 20, 2017 the EU Commission published a directive and a regulation on the Marrakesh treaty that has to be transposed into national law, in all 28 member states, deadline for transposition: October 11, 2018.

The European Union has committed to ratification and implementation of the Treaty, and member states are required to update their national laws to implement the Treaty’s requirements later in 2018.

The European Union ratified the treaty for all 28 members on October 1, 2018. The provisions of the Treaty will go into effect across the EU (including in the United Kingdom) on January 1, 2019.


Resources for this post:

  • Library of Congress
  • National Library Service
  • World Intellectual Property Organization
  • Wikipedia [Description of the Act]
  • World Health Organization


Poet and writer, I was once columnist and the associate editor of a regional employment publication. Currently I run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers.

My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation Press, The River Journal, The Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman.