Copyright is a property right that supports authors and publishers in writing, investing and promoting creative work. Copyright is at the core of the book publishing industry and all creative industries.

Copyright legislation facilitates access to copyright material for particular purposes, defined as exceptions.

In 2017, the Australian Parliament adopted new legislation defining the exception for access to copyright material for the print disabled. Changes to copyright law, following Australia’s signing of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016, have meant that providing access to people with a visual impairment or print disability to copyright material is now a legal obligation. Companies who create copyright material, including books and printed material, are now bound to provide that material in a format that every individual can access.

The Marrakesh Treaty

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled is an international copyright treaty administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. The goal of the treaty is to create a set of mandatory limitations or exceptions to copyright that enable access to copyright material for people living with a print disability.

Signatories to the treaty are bound to provide recognised entities representing people with a print disability with access to copyright material for the purposes of making that material accessible. Although there were provisions in the Australian Copyright Act 1968 that enshrined access for the blind, the Government passed changes to the Act, implementing accessibility into a new fair dealing provision.

The treaty covers access for people who are blind and vision impaired. The treaty also covers ‘perceptual impairment’, which includes dyslexia as well as any physical impairment that makes the holding or manipulation of a standard book difficult. The treaty allows the sharing of accessible-format material across national borders.

Australia was one of the first countries to sign the treaty.

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