Dr Cesar Ramirez-Montes presents research study for the EU Parliament
On 9 November 2016, the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions organised a workshop on the rights of persons with disabilities where the Committee, disability rights groups, human rights organisations and members of the civil society heard the findings and recommendations made by Dr Cesar Ramirez-Montes in a research study into the background, content, commitments, implementation and broader implications for disability and copyright law of EU ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty. Successfully completed in June 2013, the Marrakesh Treaty purports to provide a solution to the ‘global book famine’ affecting print-disabled people (ie blind, visually impaired, dyslexics, etc,) around the world as a result of the extremely limited number of publications in accessible formats. The Treaty aims to improve access to accessible format publications through mandatory exceptions and limitations into the national copyright laws of signatory countries in order to allow libraries and charities to create and exchange accessible format copies of copyright-protected books across borders without infringing copyright. It is the first international agreement to combine human rights, disability law and intellectual property in order to address discrimination, inequalities, and social exclusion and thereby achieve social justice for the blind.
The Marrakesh Treaty is widely regarded as an historic, ground-breaking agreement in the sense of existing primarily for the needs of copyright users rather than copyright owners. In his report, Ramírez-Montes examined the nature of the obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure that intellectual property laws (including copyrigjt) do not act as a discriminatory barrier for disabled people to exercise their right to knowledge and information. His report also examined the opposition amongst a small minority of Member States to EU ratification based upon questions of competence (exclusive or shared) and the need for reform of the EU copyright system prior to ratification. But the report found these arguments without merit. The reported submitted urged the EU to delay no further EU ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty and made a series of policy recommendations for the EU Parliament, the Commission and the Member States.
David Hammerstein, from the World Blind Union, was grateful for this comprehensive and useful report that he said ‘contributes significantly to the acccess to knowledge movement for persons with disabilities.’ Similarly, the Chair of the Committee on Petitions, MEP Cecilia Wikstrom, said the Committee found the report thorough and its recommendations very useful in achieving the aims and spirit of the so-called ‘Marrakesh miracle.’