India: Historic Marrakesh Treaty: For Visually Impaired/Print Disabled Persons

Last Updated: 12 September 2013
Article by Sugandha Nayak

In keeping with the fundamental objectives of non discrimination, equal opportunity, access, complete individual development, effective and inclusive participation in society, the Treaty of Marrakesh truly balanced human rights and intellectual property rights. Marrakesh, an international treaty that ensures visually impaired people to have easier access to books, unanimously adopted by member state of the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The treaty was approved by representatives from WIPO's 186 member states including India at "The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Publish Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or otherwise Print Disabled" on June 27, 2013. After this treaty, books would be available in all sorts of formats such as Braille, for the print disabled/visually impaired, in order to enable them to read, learn and participate in the society.

Treaty's Agenda and the Final Verdict

The treaty recognized the obligation of the right holder to make works accessible to persons with visual impairment and to the print disabled, recognized that though countries have different limitations and exceptions to their copyright law, but a uniform international framework to be followed and to ensure cross-border exchange of books in accessible format. The main agenda was to promote sharing of books in any accessible format for blind or visually impaired, and to alleviate the "book famine" experienced by many of the WHO estimated 300 million people from such disability in the world. According to World Health Organization, India has more than 63 million visually impaired people, of whom about 8 million are blind.

Considering the access of knowledge, keeping the blind persons in mind, the treaty removed barriers to access, recognized the right to read, established equal opportunities and rights for blind, visually impaired and otherwise print disabled persons who are marginalized due to lack of access to published works. Adoption of this treaty has made equal and appropriate balance between Copyright Law, its exceptions and limitations. The treaty also focused to adopt national law provisions that permit the reproduction, distribution and making available published works in accessible formats without having to seek permission from organizations that serve people who are blind, visually impaired and print disabled. This will in turn increase the availability of accessible works as different countries will be able to each produce accessible versions of materials which can then be shared with each other instead of duplicating efforts by adopting the same work.

Furthermore, because copyright law is "territorial" these exemptions usually do not cover the import or export of work covered into accessible formats, even between countries with similar rules. Organization in each country must negotiate license with the right holder to exchange special format across border, or produce their own material, a costly undertaking that severely limits access by visually impaired persons to print works of all kinds.1

Substantive provision2

Article 2 - of the draft lays down certain important definitions. From the definition of the work, it becomes clear that this treaty is applicable to literary and artistic work. 'Accessible format copy' is defined to mean a copy of a work in an alternative manner or form in order to enable people with visual impairments to have access to these works 'as feasibly and comfortably as a person without visual impairments or print disabilities.' The breadth of this definition is welcoming. However, the US and EU policy on digital locks as well as translation rights may pose a hurdle for the realization of access and availability of such formats. Therefore, though the law requires books to be made available easily, technology and market choices by the US and EU may hinder 'feasible and comfortable' access to such formats.

The footnote to Article 7 allows authorized entities to make use of technological measures and says that nothing should disturb such practices if they are in accordance with national laws.

Article 3 - Another major development has been the inclusion of the 'print disabled' as a beneficiary (along with the blind and visually impaired). This is in keeping with the objectives of non-discrimination and equal opportunity. A print disable person is someone who cannot access print due to certain visual, physical or cognitive disabilities. Example a person who has no hands cannot turn page of a printed book and is print disabled (even though his visions is fine).

Article 4.2 - The treaty allows the owner of the copyright, the beneficiary (or someone acting on his behalf ) or an 'authorized entity' to make an accessible format copy of a work without the authorization of the copyright holder. Moreover, the treaty mandates that such copies be shared only with beneficiaries and be made from lawfully obtained copies. The Indian Copyright law also allows the disabled person and non-profit third parties working for the disabled to convert works into accessible formats without authorization from the right holder.

Article 5 - Cross border exchange of copyrighted works in accessible formats is one of the primary aims of the treaty. Technologically advanced developed nations have the capability to convert works into various formats, whereas the developing nations may not have the same capabilities. The treaty enables easy access to converted works across borders. This is giant step for ensuring access. However, since the treaty text uses the word 'may' and gives an impression that this provision is non-mandatory, the US and EU may take advantage of such language.

Article 9 and 14 - The treaty delegates administrative functions to the International Bureau of WIPO. The International Bureau will also help in facilitating cross border exchange of accessible formats by encouraging voluntary sharing of information so that authorized entities can identify each other. An Assembly to maintain and develop the treaty has also been created. Each Contracting State is represented by one delegate in the Assembly who has one vote.

India's Prospective & the Copyright Amendment Act, 2012 WTO/TRIPS agreement in 1994 has given India an important multilateral treaty for blind people. It has set up an unprecedented example in solving the problem in the international norm setting and it reinforced our confidence in the WIPO's significant role in managing and implementing the international copyright system. It has been found that only 1% of all the books are available in accessible formats and it is stated that 47 million of the world's visually impaired persons stay in India. In order to deal with this deficit an amendment in the Indian Copyright Act was introduced vide Copyright Amendment Act, 2012 and amendment in Section 52(1)(zb) which permits the conversion of a work into any accessible format exclusively for the benefit of persons with disabilities. This amendment was introduced much before the Marrakesh Treaty and in all probability would have been upheld as a shining example at the Marrakesh Conference, Morocco.


Prior to the treaty, it was often unlawful to allow so-called authorized entities (libraries or NGO's) in one country to send accessible format books directly to authorized entities or blind individuals in another country. This resulted in large libraries of accessible books being trapped behind national borders. As a result, the same books had to be made accessible from scratch in each new country where a blind person needed it. Now cross-border shipment will be legal with little administrative burden. The treaty reiterates the requirement that the cross border sharing of work created based on limitation and exceptions must be limited to certain special cases which do not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interest of the right-holder. The treaty also allows for the unlocking of digital locks on e-books for the benefit of blind people. In other words, a kindle book or iBook with digital rights management could now be unlocked and printed in Braille without consulting the rights holder. At present, 51 countries have signed the treaty making it the largest number of the countries to ever sign a WIPO-administration treaty upon adoption.


1 , last retrieved on 02.08.2013.

2 , last retrieved on 04.08.2013.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions