Russian ministry of culture seeks more reading opportunities for blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled persons

Russian ministry of culture (MinCult) aims to broad access to literary works for print disabled persons. Without right holders’ consent it is possible to issue Braille or audio books for blind persons, provided that books are published in special format protected from copying.

But currently MinCult endeavours to provide access to books also for otherwise print disabled persons and to increase the quantity of accessible formats for such persons. Right holders are not so happy with MinCult’s idea. MinCult proposed its draft law to ratify Marrakesh treaty. Ratification would entail relevant amendments in Russian copyright law.

According to explanation note, the definition “copy in available format” is interpreted more broadly than definition “special format” provided in Russian civil code (article 1274). Available format means any format providing beneficiary with access to printed information. It is proposed to amend definition “special format” in article 1274 and replace it with definition “specially-available format”.

The Russian civil code unlike the Marrakesh treaty provides lesser opportunities for visually impaired or otherwise print disabled persons. In order to ratify this treaty it is also necessary to amend item 2 of article 1274 of Russian civil code in order to more precisely define beneficiary of exceptions and limitations provided in treaty for its appliance in Russia.

Currently Russian civil code provides exception for blind and visually impaired persons. In order to provide such persons with access to works it is allowed to reproduce works in formats, intended for use by such persons, and also to distribute copies of works, reproduced in special formats, without right holder’s consent and payment of royalty if there is no intention to make a profit.

It is premature to discuss what formats will be available after ratification of Marrakesh treaty. This issue must be concerned by all stakeholders, believes MinCult. The issue of new formats is very topical. For example, Braille is not popular today. The literary work “War and Peace” in Braille format is so huge in volume that you could not place it in one suitcase. Audio-books are more popular today. But audio books are not widespread. It is pretty expensive.

Right holders believe new amendments, associated with Marrakesh ratification, would entail damages for them. There is no mechanism of protection from pirates. Besides, there could be provided a minimum remuneration for them, paid from state budget.