The background: ALA has been working with associations like the National Federation of the Blind and the World Blind Union to pass the Treaty of Limitations and Exceptions for Visually Impaired Persons at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since 2008. We have met frequently with rights holders and their lobbyists. Both sides have made concessions along the way by negotiating with the US delegation who once was a leading supporter of the treaty. The Obama Administration has supported access to information for all. President Obama said “reading is the foundation of all learning”–a sound bite frequently used in his remarks at various functions across the country. All that has changed because some of the biggest corporations oppose the treaty and want it scrapped.
The problem: You may ask yourself, why is Exxon opposed to increasing access to reading materials for the blind? Who opposes the blind? Who opposes reading? The Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), of which Exxon is a member, presumes that one small exception to copyright will cause their entire house of intellectual property cards to fall. You can read the letter (pdf) yourself but here’s the relevant nugget:
IPO supports international action that addresses the needs of the visually impaired in meaningful ways, but we are concerned about the VIP treaty as currently drafted, focused exclusively on L/Es [limitations and exceptions]and not on the rights holders whose copyrights are at stake. We are also concerned about the potentially negative, precedential effect that a one -sided, exceptions focused VIP treaty may have on parallel developments at WIPO and in other international negotiations.
Let’s fight this ridiculous notion by signing the “We the People” petition ASAP. Final meetings regarding the future of the treaty start on June 17th. Hurry.