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National Stakeholders’ Workshop on the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled

Have you ever thought about how the visually impaired acquire reading/learning materials? Did you know that out of the estimated 1 billion books that are annually published worldwide, only about 5% are adapted into accessible formats for the visually impaired and persons with print disabilities? In order to improve the situation, the World Blind Union (of which the Ghana Blind Union is a member) has been at the forefront in advocating strongly for an international treaty which will enable the visually impaired to have access to published works.

Having ‘fought’ for over a decade, the World Blind Union’s quest received a significant boost when in 2013, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) sponsored and organized a Diplomatic Conference to conclude a Treaty to facilitate access to published works by visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities in Marrakesh, Morocco. The Treaty, which is officially called the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, was adopted on the 27th of June, 2013 during the Diplomatic Conference and was signed by over 75 WIPO-member states including Ghana.

With the passage of this Treaty, published works (books) could be adapted into accessible formats such as Braille, large print, audio books, etc for visually impaired persons without recourse to the publishers or rightsholders of those works. The Treaty also permits the exchange of published works in accessible formats for the visually impaired across borders. The Treaty however ensures that the rights of publishers & authors are not unduly infringed since the accessible format copies will be used only for the purposes stipulated in the Treaty.

The Copyright Office in its commitment to ensuring a balance between the promotion of creativity on one hand and the fair utilization of creative works for the benefit of society on the other, is collaborating with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to organize a two-day national stakeholders’ workshop on the Marrakesh Treaty. Once signed, necessary steps have to be taken to ratify the Treaty and subsequently domesticate it into our national copyright law – the Copyright Act, 2005 (Act 690).

Among the crucial steps towards the ratification of the Treaty is the organization of this sensitization workshop which aims at bringing together all key stakeholders i.e. policymakers, legislators, implementing agencies, beneficiary communities, rightsholders, etc to study and deliberate on the Treaty with the view to promoting its ratification and eventual domestication into our law.

The workshop is scheduled to take place at the Accra International Conference Center on the 12th and 13th of August, 2014 starting 09:00 each day.