NATIONAL LIBRARY SERVICE MARRAKESH TREATY IMPLEMENTATION
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 (Authorized Entities) 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 does 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 has developed new internal processes to allow for full participation. For NLS’s overall general "Policies and Practices” to implement the Treaty, please see https://www.loc.gov/nls/who-we-are/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.
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 Learning Ally, in addition to numerous non-profit groups and academic entities who provide accessible materials, are also affected.
Is NLS sharing all of the books in its collection?
No. NLS shares audio and braille books and braille music scores that are produced by or for NLS. Locally produced materials are shared 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. NLS shares new books on a periodic basis and also on request.
Does NLS obtain books from other countries under the Marrakesh treaty?
Yes. NLS obtains books directly from other countries that have fully implemented the Marrakesh Treaty, and also via the Accessible Books Consortium’s central catalog known as the Global Book Service. Within three years of the Treaty’s implementation, NLS has added over 4,700 books in 24 different languages, greatly expanding the NLS collection. These are added on an ongoing basis in accordance with NLS’ Collection Development Policy and also based on patron and network library requests.
Does NLS share hard-copy braille, talking-book cartridges, or talking-book machines with organizations in other countries that are parties to the treaty?
No. NLS exchanges materials in digital form only, including electronic braille (BRFs) and audio and does not share equipment.
Does 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. 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.
Does NLS accept requests for materials directly from individuals who are not US residents or citizens living abroad?
No, but NLS encourages patrons to work with their local Authorized Entities to obtain materials from the NLS collection via ABC’s Global Book Service.
Are NLS’s cooperating libraries sharing materials directly with people in Marrakesh Treaty countries?
Network libraries are not sharing 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?
Yes. NLS patrons may contact their network libraries to determine whether specific books are available in the collection. If they are not, network libraries can submit a request to add a particular book. NLS will obtain the book through the Marrakesh Treaty if available or identify alternate sources if needed.
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:
September 15, 2020
Updated March 27, 2023