The Marrakesh Treaty

What is the Marrakesh Treaty?
Over 90% of published material is not available to persons with a visual disability. The Marrakesh Treaty facilitates the access to published material for visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities by allowing for copyright exceptions in domestic law. It has been created through an international campaign headed by the World Blind Union (WBU) and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Many groups in India also supported negotiations around the same.

What does the Treaty contain?
It is an international framework that allows published work to be made accessible. The treaty is a legally binding document among the States that have ratified it and hence if necessary, provisions must be made in National Law to incorporate it into copyright exceptions. India already has this Copyright Exception. It also requires treaty parties to allow exchange across borders of those copies made accessible by the treaty.

Who does the Treaty benefit?
The treaty beneficiaries are persons who are ‘print disabled’ – which encompasses a wide range of impairments, including persons who are visually impaired as well those with a physical disability that prevents them from holding and manipulating a book.

What are the works covered under the Treaty?
The definition of “works” under the Treaty is limited to materials in the form of text, notation and/or related illustration only, and an agreed statement by the contracting parties clarifies that this also includes audio books. Originally while being negotiated, the Treaty sought to cover audio-visual works as well, but this eventually fell through and only written books were included.

Why is the Marrakesh Treaty important?
According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, there are certain anticipated benefits of the treaty which are important to note:

  • Improved awareness of the challenges faced by the print-disabled community and persons with disabilities
  • Greater access to education
  • Enhanced social integration and cultural participation
  • Full participation in cultural developments as consumers or as creators
  • Poverty alleviation and increased contributions to the national economy

How is this different from the Amendment to the Indian Copyright Law?
There are two main differences to keep in mind:

  • The Indian Copyright exception to convert works published in India pertains to any work published in India – including audio-visual work – and not just printed work
  • Under the Copyright law, the work needs to be published in India. The Marrakesh treaty opens up all books and printed material for conversion as long as it has been published in a State that has ratified the treaty (and not just signed it)

When does the Marrakesh treaty come into force and which countries have ratified it?
After Canada ratified the treaty in June 2016, the treaty had a strength of 20 which brought it into force on the 30th of September, 2016. These are the countries who have ratified it:

India, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates, Mali, Uruguay, Paraguay, Singapore, Argentina, Mexico, Mongolia, Republic of Korea, Australia, Brazil, Peru, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Israel, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala and Canada.

How can you access books from ratified countries?
The treaty recognizes ‘authorized entities’ which are defined as a non-profit or government agency that makes accessible copies of works, and limits distribution of those copies to people with bona-fide disabilities, which it calls “Beneficiary Persons.” There is no certification process for the authorized entity and any organization or entity that meets the criteria above can be considered to be one.

In India, DAISY India has partnered with WIPO’s Accessible Book Consortium and established a repository of accessible books at which has followed all of the requirements under the Treaty.

A person with disability can contact any such authorized entity in a member State and access the works or request them to convert a work that is not available in an accessible format. The treaty also permits cross-border exchange of accessible books, both between authorized entities and directly from one authorized entity to individuals in other countries.