Thursday, September 27, 2012

Access to Books for Persons with Disabilities
By Abigail Rekas

The past few years has seen a major surge in interest in access to books for persons with disabilities. This seems like a pretty simple proposition - everyone should be able to go to the bookstore and pick up a book they’d like to read. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, for a number of reasons.  Accessible publishing historically has been an expensive proposition, performed by non-profit charitable organizations. These organizations are frequently working under an exception to copyright law, because they cannot afford to license the right to reproduce the book for such a limited run and do the translation into Braille or record the audio book.

The rise of digital technology has been a game changer for accessible publishing. For the first time it is possible to share a master digital file between organizations for the Braille translation, or audio file, or even new types of accessible books. These accessible books are still being created under exceptions and limitations to copyright.

Exceptions and limitations are a territorial in nature; they only extend as far as the borders of the country that created them. This means that a book created under an exception in country A should not be transmitted to country B, because they may not have the same types of exceptions, and the work may technically be infringing the authors rights.

These new technologies have reinvigorated the debate at the international level over copyright exceptions and limitations and the sharing if accessible books across international borders. There has been movement to create an international copyright treaty that would make exceptions for persons with disabilities mandatory for all signatory states.

There are ongoing negotiations over this topic at the UN World Intellectual Property Organization. There are strong feelings on both sides of the negotiations, from rights holders organizations and disabled persons organizations.

The Centre for Disability Law & Policy at NUI Galway and the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) will be hosting a Public Lecture on October 8th to discuss some of these important issues.

The speakers for the evening include:
Chair: Desmond Kenny, CEO, National Council for the Blind of Ireland

Welcome: Dr Maurice Manning, Chancellor of the National University of Ireland

Introduction: Professor Gerard Quinn, Centre for Disability Law & Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway

Keynote: Professor Justin Hughes, Cardozo Law School, New York, USA, and Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property.

Respondents:  Professor Eoin O’Dell, School of Law, Trinity College, Dublin & Chair of the Copyright Review Committee of Ireland, Eithne Fitzgerald, Head of Policy and Research, National Disability Authority, Samantha Holman, Irish Copyright Licensing Agency, and Abigail Rekas, EU Marie Curie Fellow (NUI Galway).

Please join us to learn more about copyright and access to books for disabled persons!

Venue: National University of Ireland, 49 Merrion Square, Dublin 2 , (Phelan Room)

Time: 6-7:30 PM

RSVP by October 4th to
Numbers are strictly limited and spaces at the event are offered on a first come, first served basis.
Venue is fully accessible. Please contact us ASAP with any specific accessibility requirements.
To read Prof. Eoin O’Dells blog on this event, please click here.