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Proposal for directive to implement Marrakesh Treaty throughout EU

The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted in 2013 at the WIPO with the aim of facilitating the availability and cross-border exchange of books and other print material in accessible formats around the world. It was signed by the Union in April 2014. The Treaty requires the parties to provide exceptions or limitations to copyright and related rights for the benefit of blind, visually impaired and otherwise print-disabled persons and allows for the cross-border exchange of special format copies of books, including audio books, and other print material between countries that are parties to the Treaty.

The beneficiaries of the Marrakesh Treaty, i.e. persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled (‘beneficiary persons’) face many barriers to accessing books and other print material protected by copyright and related rights. The objective of the proposed Directive is to increase the availability of works and other protected subject-matter, e.g. books, journals, newspapers, magazines and other writings, sheet music and other print material, including in audio form, in formats that are accessible to beneficiary persons. It will do this by ensuring that all beneficiary persons and organisations serving their needs on a non-profit basis can rely on a mandatory and harmonised exception to copyright and related rights within the Union.

The proposed Directive (de) would amend the existing Union legislative framework accordingly and ensure that the accessible format copies made in one Member State can be disseminated and accessed throughout the Union. With respect to the obligations imposed by the Marrakesh Treaty on the cross-border exchange of accessible format copies between the Union and third countries that are parties to the Treaty, this Directive should be read together with Regulation.

In accordance with the requirements of the Marrakesh Treaty, the exception introduced by the proposed Directive will be mandatory for Member States, and will apply to rights that have been harmonised at Union level and that are relevant for the making and dissemination of accessible format copies as defined in the Marrakesh Treaty. The exception complements the existing optional exception or limitation provided for in Article 5(3)(b) of Directive 2001/29/EC by introducing a mandatory exception for the benefit of beneficiary persons that will have effect throughout the internal market.

The proposed Directive would amend the existing Union legislative framework by providing for a new mandatory exception to the relevant harmonised rights and ensuring that accessible format copies made in one Member State under that exception can be disseminated and accessed throughout the Union.

In so doing and by providing for clear definitions, it introduces a uniform approach to the Union’s obligations under the Treaty, including the free circulation of accessible format copies in the internal market, providing the beneficiaries of the exception with the necessary legal certainty in undertaking the uses that it covers. At the same time, it allows for a certain margin of manoeuvre for Member States for adapting specific national legislation that might be directly or indirectly affected by the provisions of this Directive, for example in the area of education, healthcare or other social policies.

The mandatory exception should limit the right of reproduction so as to allow for any act that is necessary in order to make changes to or convert or adapt a work or other subject-matter in such a way as to produce an accessible format copy. This includes providing the necessary means to navigate information in an accessible format copy. The exception should allow authorised entities to make and disseminate online and offline within the Union accessible format copies of works or other subject-matter covered by this Directive.

In view of the specific nature of the exception, its targeted scope and the need for legal certainty for its beneficiaries, Member States should not be allowed to impose additional requirements for the application of the exception, such as compensation schemes or the prior verification of the commercial availability of accessible format copies.

Member States will be obliged to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 12 months after its adoption. Member States will be required to communicate to the Commission the provisions introduced to comply with this Directive, and other major legislative provisions adopted in the field covered by this Directive.