In Canada, more than 800,000 people live with a visual
impairment and approximately 3 million Canadians have an impairment
related to comprehension (e.g. autism) or the inability to hold or
manipulate a book (e.g. Parkinson's disease). On June 22, 2016,
Canada took a significant step towards helping such people with
print disabilities. Bill C-11 An Act to amend the Copyright
Act(access to copyrighted works or other
subject-matter for persons with perceptual disabilities)
received royal assent, officially implementing the Marrakesh
Treaty into Canadian law. The amendments to the Copyright
Act enable Canada to be among the first countries in the world
to accede to the Treaty, whose full-title is the Marrakesh
Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are
Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The
Treaty was adopted in 2013. The Treaty is intended to modify
existing copyright laws internationally to create exceptions for
reproduction, distribution and making available to the public of
materials in alternate formats for those with print
The Bill had broad support across party-lines and numerous
stakeholders wrote to the government in support of the Treaty,
including the Canadian Association of Research Libraries; the
Canadian Association of University Teachers; the Canadian Council
of the Blind; the Canadian Federation of the Blind; the Canadian
Library Association; the Canadian Urban Libraries Council; CNIB;
and the Copyright Consortium of the Council of Ministers of
With the changes to the Act, it is no longer an infringement for
not-for-profit organizations, including governments, to make a copy
specifically designed for persons with a print disability provided
that the work is not commercially available in a similar format, or
circumvent a technological protection measure to do so in certain
circumstances. In combination with the provisions which provide an
exception to infringement, the Act now allows a person with a
perceptual disability to make, or access, a work or other
subject-matter, in a format specially designed for them, and to do
any act necessary for that purpose, including circumventing a
technological protection measure, if necessary.
The Act defines a print disability broadly as a disability that
prevents or inhibits a person from reading a work in its original
format. It applies to literary, musical, artistic or dramatic
works, and not cinematographic works. Print disabilities include
those resulting from (a) impairment of sight or inability to focus
or move one's eyes, (b) inability to hold or manipulate a book,
or (c) an impairment relating to comprehension. The definition is
intentionally broad to allow for a variety of different types of
copying, including making sound recordings, sign language, and
braille reproductions, to meet the needs of individuals with
Not-for-profit organizations in Canada may also now provide
these works to foreign not-for-profit organizations that are acting
for the benefit of persons with a print disability, or through such
organizations to people with print disabilities, provided that the
work is not available in a similar format within a reasonable time,
for a reasonable price, and with reasonable effort.
The Act now requires that not-for-profit organizations relying
on the exceptions of the Act submit reports to an authority to be
named in the Regulations regarding their copying activities and pay
any royalty established via the regulations. In addition, only an
injunction will be available against not-for-profits for copyright
infringement related to works created for people with print
disabilities, provided the not-for--profit acted in good faith when
creating the work.
Canada is the 20th country to ratify the Treaty, the
milestone for international accession, and the Treaty will now come
into effect September 30, 2016.
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.
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