Lobby groups want copyright rules relaxed for blind

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Several lobby groups on Wednesday asked the UN intellectual property agency to relax its copyright rules to give some 150 million visually impaired people access to a greater selection of books.

They want the World Intellectual Property Organization to adopt a treaty put forward by Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Mexico which proposes a relaxation of the rules to benefit the blind.

"Less than five percent of books published are accessible to the visually impaired," said James Love, from Knowledge Ecology International, a group dealing with issues surrounding intellectual property.

Copyright laws are hindering the visually impaired from access to books as they prohibit the "sharing of basic files" between countries that use the same language, said Dan Pescod from the World Blind Union.

"This means for example that the book 'Harry Potter' has been translated in braille in five different anglophone countries. This is a waste of resources for charity associations that are undertaking this work," he said.

WIPO member states are holding informal discussions on the issue, which will be raised formally between June 21 and 24.

The lobby groups also want a special provision applied by 60 countries that facilitates access of books to the blind to be expanded worldwide.

The provision permits for instance, the translation of a book in braille without authorisation from the copyright holder, noted Pescod.

© 2010 AFP

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