June 9, 2015
By Amrita V. Singh
On April 27, 2015 the Canadian federal government announced that Canada would be signing onto the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. The Treaty, which is intended to help individuals with print disabilities access written materials, was adopted in 2013 and is intended to modify existing copyright laws internationally to create exceptions for reproduction, distribution and making available to the public of materials in alternate formats for those with disabilities.
According to a News Release posted by the federal government, once the Treaty comes into force, 285,000 adapted works from 13 countries, in more than 55 languages, will be available to Canadians with print disabilities. With only 7 per cent of published books ever being made available in audiobook or Braille conversion formats, the increase in access will be significant.
On June 8, 2015, the government proposed amendments to the Copyright Act to bring it into compliance with the requirements of the Treaty. Bill C-65, which is short-titled “Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act”, amends sections 32 and 32.01 of the Copyright Act. While these sections already addressed exceptions for Canadians with perceptual disabilities, the amendments make important changes, including providing more specificity for the relevant definitions and removing limitations that presently exist in the current Copyright Act.
Some of the changes include:
Interestingly, while the Treaty allows for members to decide whether they wish to include remuneration for authors of the reproduced works nationally, the proposed amendments of Bill C-65 do not provide for this.
To come into force, the Bill must pass Parliament before the session ends, which is anticipated to occur this month.
June 22, 2015 Update:
On Friday June 19, 2015 the Canadian House of Parliament recessed for the summer. As a result, all Bills that were pending are no longer before Parliament. The amendments to the Copyright Act proposed in Bill C-65, short-titled the “Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act”, which was introduced on June 8, will therefore need to be re-introduced if they are to become law.
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