While there have been numerous measures that have been taken by international institutions, led by the UN, to foster equality, one issue that has received little attention till now has been what scholars have described as the book famine.1 Statistics show that the number of published books available in formats accessible for the print disabled people was less than 5% before 2013.2 However, 2013 was a landmark year to combat this problem and eliminate the scarcity of books available for them. On April 20, 2013 the Informal Session and Special Session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR)3 had prepared a draft version of a text of a Treaty with an aim to facilitate access of readable material to the visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities. This was subsequently discussed and adopted as the Marrakesh Treaty in the same year. Around six hundred delegates from among one hundred eighty-six member states of the WIPO joined the debate which led to the adoption of the Treaty in the Kingdom of Morocco.4

India was the first nation to ratify the Treaty on June 24, 2014 at the twenty-eighth session of the Standing Committee on the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 in Geneva. On September 30, 2016 the Treaty came into force by formally gathering 20 nations that acceeded the Treaty.5 Hopefully the number of members joining the Treaty will increase in the coming years. To remove the barriers to accessibility this Treaty plays a vital role for the visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities.

India is home to 63 million visually impaired people, of whom 8 million are blind. The Accessible India Campaign6 is a benchmark for universal access of accessible material for the visually impaired persons. India has also begun implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty into its domestic laws through a multi- stakeholder approach: collaboration with key players i.e. governmental bodies, authorized entities, etc.7 This has led to the launch of Sugamya Pustalaya, India’s largest collection of online accessible books with over 200,000 volumes of material. It is hoped that Sugamya Pustakalaya will soon become a member of the ABC Book Service, thereby joining an international library-to-library service managed by WIPO in Geneva.

This paper will highlight the Treaty and its applicability, look at the different approaches taken by several developed and a few developing nations and also see how the Indian approach, even though being a developing nation, has been progressive and beneficial to the beneficiaries of the Treaty and should be seen as an inspiration for the other nations.

  1. Kartik Sawhney, Perspective: End the ‘book famine’ with better technology, attitudes and copyright law, The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities, UNICEF, Available at https://www.unicef.org/sowc2013/perspective_sawhney.html
  2. Background Paper by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay on a WIPO Treaty for Improved Access for Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled Persons, SCCR/19/13, WIPO, Available at http://www.wipo.int/meetings/en/doc_details.jsp?doc_id=130505
  3. Informal Session and Special Session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, SCCR/SS/GE/2/13, WIPO, Available at http://www.wipo.int/meetings/en/details.jsp?meeting_id=29303
  4. Supra 1.
  5. Canada’s Accession to Marrakesh Treaty Brings Treaty into Force, WIPO Media Centre, June 30, 2016, Available at http://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2016/article_0007.html
  6. Accessible India Campaign, Available at http://accessibleindia.gov.in/content/
  7. Francis Gurry, Making Books Accessible to all, The Hindu, November 01, 2016, Available at http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/Making-books-accessible-to-all/article15005883 ece.