NCBI (the National Council for the Blind Ireland) yesterday welcomed the announcement by Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor (Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation) that Government approval had been given for the drafting of a General Scheme of Bill entitled “Copyright and Related Rights (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2016”.
Ms. Elaine Howley, Director of Policy and Advocacy at NCBI, welcomed the Minister’s announcement, at NCBI’s National Library & Media Centre in Dublin and said that “people who are blind or have impaired vision will greet this Bill as a positive step towards the Government’s ultimate ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty”, which Ireland signed up to in 2014, but has yet to ratify. “What the Minister is announced will make a world of difference to everybody who wants to read for leisure or for work and to students who have experienced a continuous scarcity of reading material for many years,” Ms. Howley said.
The Marrakesh treaty “is an international Treaty of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) framed to end ‘the Famine’ of books and printed literature experienced by the world’s estimated 285 million people who are blind, visually impaired and print disabled.”
Ireland was a significant advocate for the Treaty during our Presidency of the EU in 2013 and the government’s commitment has been recognised and applauded by other agencies representing people who are blind and vision impaired across Europe. Ms. Howley said she wished to pay tribute to Senator Martin Conway (FG) for the significant role he played during the Irish Presidency of the EU and since then, “in emphasising the need for Ireland and all member states to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty.”
NCBI currently maintains a library of publications in Braille, audio and digital formats where the printed word is recorded into audio and transcribed into Braille. The works of Irish authors are made accessible and available to library members.
When the heads of this Bill become law, Braille and digital copies of books and articles that were difficult to access heretofore, will be made more available to people who are blind or vision impaired, due to the NCBI library having easier access to files directly from the publishers.
Ms. Howley said she welcomed the minister’s indication that NCBI would be regarded as a ‘designated Body’ for whom the obtaining of copyright approval and access to print files will be made easier. She explained that “when the Marrakesh Treaty is ratified interlibrary sharing of material across national boundaries will enable us to obtain and distribute digital copies of books and articles more widely,