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Marrakesh Treaty


May 8, 2019

1. What is the Marrakesh Treaty?

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, or “Marrakesh Treaty,” provides for the exchange of accessible-format books across international borders by organizations that serve people who are blind, visually impaired, and print disabled. The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted in 2013 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to address the widespread problem known as a “book famine,” the situation where few books are published in formats that are accessible to those who are blind or visually impaired. The United States became the fiftieth member to be party to the treaty on February 8, 2019.

More information about the treaty, contracting parties and provisions can be found here at External.

Additional information about the treaty and U.S. law can be found on the United States Copyright Office at [PDF, 139 KB / 3 p.].

Finally, readers can find additional general information in the Marrakesh “Getting Started” guide at [PDF, 336 KB / 20 p.] External

2. What will the Marrakesh Treaty mean to NLS and its patrons?

NLS is very pleased with this significant step toward making it easier for those with print disabilities in signatory nations to access printed works in accessible formats, such as braille and digital audio files.

NLS is working across the Library of Congress and throughout the Legislative Branch to bring existing U.S. laws in line with the treaty while developing new processes necessary for full participation. NLS’s legislative authority requires additional changes to allow and support the exchange of materials under the Marrakesh Treaty.

3. Is NLS or its cooperating network libraries obliged to provide services under the Marrakesh Treaty?

The Marrakesh Treaty does not impose an obligation to share accessible format copies—it simply confers the right to produce, supply, import, and export an accessible copy.

4. Can NLS begin sharing materials right away?

No. Even though the United States will be a full participant in the Marrakesh Treaty as of May 8, 2019, NLS is awaiting the revision of existing, relevant U.S. law that will allow the sharing of materials through NLS. Once the revision is passed, NLS will develop policies and procedures that will allow for the exchange of these materials.

NLS will continue to update this page as circumstances warrant.

5. Is NLS and its network of libraries the only U.S. entity that provides accessible materials and may be affected by the Treaty?

No, organizations such as Bookshare and Reading Ally, in addition to numerous non-profit groups and academic entities who provide accessible materials, are also affected.

6. Will NLS be sharing all of the books and magazines in its collection?

If international exchange by NLS were permitted by U.S. law, NLS anticipates that it would share books and magazines that it has produced in its studio or with its own contractors and locally produced materials if they have been uploaded to BARD by one of NLS’s network libraries. It would not share commercial audiobooks unless the publisher grants permission, and it would not share items produced by third parties, such as Choice Magazine Listening, without explicit permission.

7. Does NLS expect that it will share hard-copy braille, talking-book cartridges, or talking-book machines with organizations in other countries that are parties to the treaty?

No. If international exchange by NLS were permitted by U.S. law, NLS anticipates that it would exchange materials in digital form only, including electronic braille (BRFs) and audio.

8. Will NLS give access to the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) or the BARD Mobile applications to organizations in other countries that are parties to the treaty?

No. If international exchange by NLS were permitted by U.S. law, NLS anticipates that BARD would continue to be available only to eligible patrons or institutions of the U.S. or American citizens living abroad in good standing with NLS.

9. Will NLS accept requests for materials directly from individuals who are not U.S. residents or citizens living abroad?

No, but if international exchange by NLS were permitted by U.S. law, NLS anticipates developing procedures by which requests could be accepted through organizations that serve visually impaired and print-disabled people in other Marrakesh Treaty countries.

10. Will NLS’s cooperating libraries share materials directly with people in Marrakesh Treaty countries?

Network libraries will not share NLS-produced materials. Network libraries can share their own locally produced braille and talking books and magazines.

11. Can NLS help a reader in the United States get accessible materials produced in other Marrakesh Treaty countries?

NLS patrons may contact their network libraries to determine the availability of specific titles.

12. Is there an international resource for accessible materials?

The Accessible Book Consortium (ABC) is a public-private partnership led by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It includes organizations that represent people with print disabilities, such as the World Blind Union (WBU); libraries for the blind; standards bodies; and organizations representing authors, publishers, and collective management organizations. More information can be found here: External.

13. Does the Marrakesh Treaty allow NLS or its cooperating network libraries to record and distribute books published in another country?

Eligible works protected by United States copyright law, including those foreign works first published abroad or in multiple editions published in several countries, can fall within the exception for permissible activities undertaken by authorized entities within the United States, as defined by the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act. Section 121 of Title 17 of the U.S. Code sets out the eligibility requirements for the kinds of works, eligible persons, and authorized entities, and the activities that are not considered infringing. Section 121A of Title 17 of the U.S. Code describes the cross-border provisions.

The text of sections 121 and 121A is posted on the website of the U.S. Copyright Office at [PDF, 178 KB / 4 p.]. For a list of Marrakesh Treaty members, please see the Copyright Office’s Circular 38A at [PDF, 174 KB / 20 p.].