NATIONAL LIBRARY SERVICE MARRAKESH TREATY IMPLEMENTATION
For September 15, 2020
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. On February 8, 2019, the United States became the 50th member to deposit its instrument of ratification of this treaty with WIPO, and the treaty came into force in the United States on May 8, 2019.
More information about the treaty, contracting parties and provisions can be found here at https://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/marrakesh External.
Additional information can be found through the United States Copyright office at https://www.copyright.gov/legislation/2018_marrakesh_faqs.pdf.
Finally, readers can find additional general information in the Marrakesh Treaty “Getting Started” guide at https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/hq/topics/exceptions-limitations/getting_started_faq_marrakesh_treaty_a_practical_guide_for_librarians_2018_en.pdf External.
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.
Furthermore, on December 20, 2019, the Library of Congress Technical Corrections Act of 2019 amended NLS’ statutory authorization to harmonize NLS’s statute with the Marrakesh Treaty. The Act amended NLS’s statute to permit the international digital exchange of materials under the Marrakesh Treaty. The Act also amended NLS’s statute with a new definition of “eligible persons” consistent with the Marrakesh Treaty. NLS is now working to develop new internal processes necessary for full participation. For NLS’s overall general “Policies and Practices” to implement the Treaty, please see https://www.loc.gov/nls/about/organization/laws-regulations/marrakesh-treaty/marrakesh-treaty-implementation.
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.
Can NLS begin sharing materials right away?
No. Even though the United States became a full participant in the Marrakesh Treaty as of May 8, 2019, and even though NLS’s authorizing legislation has now been revised to allow the international sharing of materials, NLS still needs to develop policies and procedures that will allow for the exchange of these materials.
NLS will continue to update this page as circumstances warrant.
Is NLS and its network of libraries the only US 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.
Will NLS be sharing all of the books in its collection?
NLS anticipates that it will share books 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 will not share commercial audiobooks unless the publisher grants permission, and it will not share items produced by third parties without explicit permission.
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. NLS will exchange materials in digital form only, including electronic braille (BRFs) and audio.
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. NLS anticipates that BARD will continue to be available only to eligible patrons or institutions of the US or American citizens living abroad in good standing with NLS.
Will NLS accept requests for materials directly from individuals who are not US residents or citizens living abroad?
No, but NLS is developing procedures by which requests can be accepted through organizations that serve visually impaired and print-disabled people in other Marrakesh Treaty countries. For further information, please see NLS’s overall general “Policies and Practices” to implement the Treaty, https://www.loc.gov/nls/about/organization/laws-regulations/marrakesh-treaty/marrakesh-treaty-implementation.
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 content.
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.
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: