Thursday, September 23, 2010

KEI @ WIPO re Canada & a Treaty for the Blind

Here's the KEI statement just delivered at the WIPO General Assemblies meeting. It concludes with a rather provocative comment on Canada regarding the proposed treaty for the blind:.
We also note that Canada has made an appalling proposal to limit exports of works to only Canadian authors, a proposal that would lead to very restrictive access if embraced by other countries.
(Emphasis added)

Unless Canada's position has changed very recently, this is not quite accurate (which is quite uncharacteristic for KEI). It partly describes what is proposed in Bill C-32 but fails to note that Bill C-32 would also allow for exportation of books by authors from the importing country. This also fails to note that Canada is also pushing for a much more liberal position internationally. Bill C-32 is presumably based upon what the Canadian government thinks (perhaps with an over abundance of caution?) is currently possible under international law.

True, Bill C-32 would allow a Canadian entity to export only books by Canadians and Kenyans to Kenya, for example. That would not include British, American, French, etc. authors. True, that would be a serious limitation in this example. But it would not be such a big problem vis a vis exports to the USA, UK, or France, for example, since these countries have enormous catalogues of books by their nationals that would be needed by the blind.

However, the Canadian position being advocated for an international instrument is clearly much more liberal.

As Canadian Ambassador John Gero said at WIPO last June and as reported by KEI itself via my blog here:
With respect to exportation, the bill in front of the Canadian parliament also has specific measures related to the export of special format materials. It includes a number of provisions to ensure that there is an appropriate balance between the interests of the parties involved. First, exportation is limited to special format versions of works by Canadian authors or authors of the country of importation. Second, the bill allows for the possibility of a royalty collected for export material even though there is a complete exception for domestic production of special format materials. Third, export from Canada can only be done by organizations, not by individuals; and the importer recognized by the law can only be an organization and not an individual. And fourth, the bill allows for the possibility of requiring a contract between the Canadian exporting organization and the foreign importing organization. A contract of this type could stipulate, for example, that the copies could only be used by persons with print disabilities. In this sense, this provision is aligned with the concept of trusted intermediaries by ensuring that the distribution is limited to persons with print disabilities.

Of note, the bill allows the export of special format materials to foreign countries regardless of what the law is in the foreign country and regardless of whether the foreign country has a limitation or exception for the creation of special format materials.

Although the bill does not allow for the export of third country material, any international instrument should establish rules and principles under which third country material can be exported.

(Emphasis added)

Leaving aside whether the proposed provisions in Bill C-32 are necessary or ultimately even helpful (since they arguably may inadvertently limit rather than expand current export possibilities), the fact is that Canada is proposing an “instrument” (not necessarily a “treaty”) that would do the right thing - i.e. “establish rules and principles under which third country material can be exported”. In turn, those rules would presumably allow Canadians to export not only books by Canadians and Kenyans to Kenya, for example, but also books by American, British, French and any other authors who whose works are needed by blind Kenyans.


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