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Is Poverty The Ultimate Print Disability



I wrote in MAY 2010 “Is Poverty The Ultimate Print Disability?” — I got at least part of it wrong: I figured at that point it would be the Social Service-type  Agencies that would say What about all those not with a chronic qualifying disability but are just chronically impoverished? It wasn’t those type agencies — turns out:


I more recently wrote:

The unspoken 500-pound-gorilla-in-the-room is the SCCR 23/5 broad exceptions for libraries and archives document which would eclipse anything in the current SCCR 23/7 exceptions for the visually impaired.

Should the SCCR 23/7 document pass in anything resembling its current form, I infer from published remarks that those in the IP rights community believe it would be that much more difficult to oppose the 23/5 library treaty.


I am not against the ability for libraries to serve the dis-enfranchised around the world .. it’s just that I believe something is better than nothing and nothing is where I see this most likely headed especially when the final WIPO SCCR 23/8 surfaces.

This is from Scribd.com/jem40000 and originally published MAY 2010:

—- http://scr.bi/wvj0hH and close to 700 reads.


Fear And Loathing In WIPO’s Geneva Part 2: Is Poverty The Ultimate Print Disability?

The Treaty Definition For Disability Is So Broad That, Even Though A Large Component Of Persons Who Are Blind Or Otherwise Reading Disabled Live In Poverty, 100 % Of Those Chronically Impoverished Live In Poverty. Where Are THEIR Free Books?

Press Release Group Intl. – May 17 2010 In their WIPO Standing Committee on Copy
right and Related Rights (SCCR) 19_3 ‘Background’ Paper on the proposed WIPO (SCCR18_5) ‘Treaty on Copyright Exceptions and Improved Access for Blind, Visually Impaired and Other Reading Disabled Persons ‘, the sponsoring countries and the World Blind Union (WBU) say:

“The proposal is modest and limited in scope, and it respects the rights of rights holders. We are not proposing a ‘revolution’!”

Note: All WIPO SCCR documents at http://www.wipo.int/copyright/en

The provenance for the proposed Treaty bears notice: In both the WIPO SCCR 13_5
and SCCR 16_2 Document it was suggested that work be undertaken by the WIPO Committee for the (p2):

“… Establishment of agreement on exceptions and limitations for purposes of public interest that must be envisaged as a minimum in all national legislations for the benefit of the community; especially to give access to the most vulnerable or socially prioritized sectors.”

And in the current WBU Treaty proposal itself it says 18_5 p2

“3. … By undertaking such an initiative, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) would act in accordance with the efforts undertaken by the United Nations to address the need for enhancing, as foreseen in document SCCR 16_2, access to knowledge for the most vulnerable or socially prioritized sectors.“

So: Just WHO is this “most vulnerable or socially prioritized population”? The US 2005 data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) looks at disability in two ways: The functional impact of disability (inability to see printed words, inability to hold a book, not able to walk 3 city blocks or grasp an object, learning disability, etc.) and the cause of such functional disabilities (blindness, arthritis, loss of use of extremity, mental or neurological condition, etc.)
Prevalence and Most Common Causes of Disability Among Adults, US 2005.


Of the 291.1 million people in the total US population in 2005, 54.4 million (18.7 percent) had some level of disability and 35.0 million (12.0 percent) had a severe disability.

From “Americans With Disabilities: 2005 Household Economic Studies”

Almost every sector of disability excepting deafness or speech impairment could
have some persons who would qualify under the SCCR 18_5 WBU treaty proposal definitions — of the almost 20% of the overall US population claiming one or more disabilities:

WBU SCCR 18_5 Treaty Article 15. Disabilities Covered:

a) For the purposes of this Treaty, a ‘visually impaired’ person is:
1. and 2. a person who is blind or visually impaired and then

(b) Contracting Parties shall extend the provisions of this Treaty to persons with any other disability who, due to that disability, need an accessible format of a type that could be made under Article 4 in order to access a copyright work to substantially the same degree as a person without a disability.

The following is NOT from a Third World country but from the UK:

“… A family’s lack of money has a significant impact on the education of their children… 3.8 million children (out of total UK population of roughly 60 million) are living in poverty in the UK today.”

“Even a good school and committed teachers can’t fully compensate for the stress that living in poverty places on a family or for the social exclusion, poor housing, or a lack of books or a computer at home. This lack of resources means poor children face an uphill struggle just to have the same type of learning environment as their peers.”

From www.endchildpoverty.org.uk

… And this from OXFAM April 2009 from Closed Books to Open Doors –West Africa’s
Literacy Challenge

“Even the best efforts of West African governments cannot meet the challenge, and there remains a need for significant external financing… (to) train another 750,000 teachers, provide books and materials and make up for the infrastructure deficit. Spending 20% of their total revenue on education – and half of that on primary education – would give most of West Africa’s governments less than $50 per child for the whole year… – a tiny figure compared to the $9,138 spent per child in the US.”

The famous ‘3 Step Test” in TRIPS Article 13 states:

“Members shall confine limitations and exceptions to exclusive rights to certain
special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and
do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the right-holder.”

In his WIPO SCCR 9_7 study (2003) on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions in the
Digital Environment, Professor Sam Ricketson of Australia noted (p22):

“Clear definition and limitation of exceptions here will therefore be necessary to establish that these ARE ‘certain special cases’ within the first step of the three-step test.”

The following footnote was then added on p22:

“Not only do I argue that the use in question should be for ‘a quite specific purpose,’ but that there must also be ‘something SPECIAL’ about this purpose, ‘special’ here meaning that it is justified by some clear reason of public policy or some other exceptional circumstance.”

The WBU Treaty proponents have said that they are in harmony with existing Agreements:

Article 3. Relations to Other Agreements

(a) Contracting Parties agree that the provisions of this Treaty are consistent with obligations set out under those of the following treaties and conventions to which they are a party:

5. The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights 1994 (the TRIPS Agreement)


However, not in the definition of Covered Disabilities nor anywhere else in the proposed Treaty does the Treaty employ ‘Language similar to TRIPS 13’ or in fact is there any mention of TRIPS Article 13 at all even though TRIPS Article 13 specifically addresses ‘Limitations and Exceptions’ which is what the proposed Treaty is all about in the first place.

Why not? Well, how could they with a straight face claim that any set of criteria which would include 15-20% of the entire population (based upon US data) be considered a certain SPECIAL case? …From an author’s point-of-view, how can it be a ‘certain special case’ when — even though he or she is fortunate enough to write a book that sells a million copies –there may be more than a million FREE copies out there in the world via an exception to copyright Treaty?

So, for the final whammy: What if (or when do) the various Poverty Law (US) and Social Justice (UK) Centers get into the act and begin to challenge ratification of the proposed WIPO / WBU Treaty in that any such approval discriminates against the chronically poor in denying THEM free access to books as well? When will they say:

‘How can you especially … give access to the most vulnerable or socially prioritized sectors and leave out those in abject poverty that cannot afford to purchase the books at all?

Is there a way out of this conundrum? We believe so and it may be simple at that
Offer to the Intellectual Property (IP) interests who might oppose Treaty ratification to have the SCCR 18_5 WBU ‘Brazil’ Treaty implemented in 2 (or more) phases the first phase being that Article 16 ‘Accessible Formats’ definition for Phase 1 be defined as “Braille or BRF Braille file only”.

Most DAISY hardware devices / software and screen-readers such as JAWS can handle a BRF file as well… and the issue of piracy and leakage to the general community is largely deflated.

The Copyright Law of Japan is very simple — almost like 3-phrase haiku poetry — in its exceptions as regards disability:

Article37. (1)
It shall be permissible
to reproduce in Braille
a work already made public.

That’s it… In fact Japanese copyright law makes no statement as to the disability status (or national status) of the recipient as, with Braille, none is really necessary – after all: Who else reads Braille?

Once again… Where is David Mamet when we need him?