What is the Copyright Act?
The Copyright Act, 1956, prevents the unauthorized republication, adaptation, reprinting, translation, conversion etc. of any work published in India. There are limited exceptions to this rule, however. If a person is unable to read a book or access any work published in India, they could approach the owner of the copyright to do so. But the owners of copyrights are not very interested in coverting these works to accessible formats because they think the target audience is small, and that even this audience would not be able to afford a cost that would be profitable to the publisher. After a long campaign, disability rights activists managed to lobby for the passage of the Copyright Amendment Bill in 2012.
How does this amendment benefit your child?
For Non-Profit Organizations:
Section 52(1)(zb) of the Act allows any person or any organization working for the benefit of persons with disabilities on a non-profit basis, to convert a work into an accessible format and/or distribute it to persons with disabilities who cannot enjoy the work in its original published form.
These converted works can only be used for private or personal use, education or research purposes. The individual or organization undertaking the conversion or distribution cannot enter mainstream business channels. The only expenses payable on such conversion are the basic charges for the conversion, and no profit can be derived from this.
The Copyright Rules, passed in 2013, further lay down the procedure for organizations working for persons with disabilities. Each converted copy shall also contain a notice which specifies that the conversion has been undertaken subject to the conditions mentioned in Section 52 (1) (zb), to maintain a record of these conversions.
For Businesses and For-Profit Organizations:
Under the newly introduced Section 31 B, any person working for the benefit of the persons with disabilities on a profit basis or for business can undertake conversion and distribution after obtaining a license from the Copyright Board in accordance with the procedure laid down in that section. In this case, applications for the compulsory license should state the amount of royalities payable from the sales to the copyright holder as per the Copyright Rules.
What is an accessible format?
An accessible format is converting a published work into Braille, DAISY, large print, digital formats, talking books, and all other formats which are accessible to persons with disabilities. Though these are formats which pertain to books, it is important to note that the Amendment covers the adaptation, reproduction, issue of copies or communications to the public of any work which includes audio visual work as well. So this would include subtitling or audio description of films, transcribing podcasts, etc.
Can you convert any work that exists in a library into an accessible format?
No. The Copyright Act pertains only to work published in India. Therefore, you must ensure that the work you intend to convert was published in India. If it is a written piece that was published abroad, you may take advantage of the Marrakesh Treaty if the Country in which this work was published is a signatory.
Where can you find accessible books for your child?
In 2016, DAISY India collated an online repository of accessible books in line with the provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty and Indian Copyright Law, called Sugamya Pustakalaya.