India: India Becomes Signatory To The Marrakesh Treaty For Visually Impaired

Last Updated: 19 June 2014
Most Read Contributor in India, September 2016

Article by Vaibhavi Pandey and Neha Chouhan1

"The problem for blind people is not the disability but the availability" 2


As per the WHO's 2012 data there are around 285 million visually impaired people around the world. Considering this huge percentage of world's population as visually impaired, it has been always a concern of the Nations to bring them on the same footing as a general human being and provide them with the basic amenities of life. Since the beginning, Copyright has been considered as an obstacle to the handicapped persons. Usually, a visually impaired person reads a book in different formats like Brail, audio, text to speech software, podcasts, talking books etc. But there exists a very few percentage of books which are translated and made available to visually impaired people in formats that are accessible by them. Further, an act of translating or converting a book into these formats may also constitute copyright infringement under various jurisdictions. Therefore, the need for a legislation to tackle this issue was highly felt. The Marrakesh Treaty was concluded on 27 June, 2013 in Marrakesh, Morocco by a Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities.

This treaty has been signed by India on 30 April 2014 along with three other members of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) namely France, Greece and European Union. Now, out of WIPO's total 187 members, the signatories are 64. This WIPO administered treaty is the treaty signed by the largest number of countries upon adoption.

Till date, none of the states has ratified the treaty. For this treaty to come into effect, ratification or accession of at least 20 states is necessary. The treaty would be affected after three months of such ratification. According to Mr. G.R. Raghavender, Registrar of Copyrights, the ratification of this treaty by India is expected to take place in the end of the month of May.

It is anticipated that this treaty is a breakthrough which would solve the problem of 'Book Famine' which is faced all over the world. Book Famine is basically the scarcity of the reading material for the blind people. In fact, the Moroccan Minister of Communications Mustapha Khalfi, described it as the 'Miracle in Marrakesh'. This treaty is estimated to remove the constraint to access books by the handicapped people. It would assure that the work of the publishers and authors is not misused and distributed to the intended beneficiaries.

There are about 39 million people across the globe that are blind, out of these India is a home to about 15 million of them. If we include the partially sighted ones and persons with other visual disabilities, then it would make it to be around 285 million persons, according to the reports of the World Blind Union. India has a large number of people of the blind community. Thus, for obvious reasons this treaty has even a greater importance in India. This treaty would make efforts to advance accessibility and gain greater access to books and literature in Braille technique, larger print or audio. In 1982, UNESCO and WIPO created a Working Group on Access by the visually and Auditory Handicapped to Material Reproducing Works Protected by Copyright. This was in pursuance to the decision taken by the respective Governing Bodies of UNESCO and WIPO and the recommendation made by the Executive Committee of the Berne Union and the Intergovernmental Committee of the Universal Copyright Convention at their November-December 1981 sessions. Then in 2000, the World Blind Union came into picture. It took several initiatives which also included providing the accessible reading materials to the blind community. Then, finally in June 2013 the 'Draft Text of an International Treaty on Limitations and Exceptions for Visually Impaired Persons/Persons with Print Disabilities' was concluded in Marrakesh, Morocco. The Preamble to the treaty recognizes the principles of equal opportunity, non-discrimination, accessibility and full and effective participation and inclusion in society. This treaty tries to lay down a balance between human rights and Intellectual Property Rights.

Article 2 of the draft lays down some important definitions:

(a) "works" means literary and artistic works within the meaning of Article 2(1) of the Berne Convention, for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, in the form of text, notation and/or related illustrations, whether published or otherwise made publicly available in any media.

(b) "accessible format copy", means a copy of a work in an alternative manner or form which gives a beneficiary person access to the work, including to permit the person to have access as feasibly and comfortably as a person without visual impairment or other print disability.

(c) "authorized entity", means an entity that is authorized or recognized by the government to provide education, instructional training, adaptive reading or information access to beneficiary persons on a non-profit basis.

The Treaty clarifies that the beneficiary persons are those affected by a range of disabilities that interfere with the effective reading of printed material. There is a broad definition which includes people who are blind, visually impaired, or reading disabled or persons with a physical disability that prevents them from holding and manipulating a book.3 The countries are also required to provide in their national copyright laws for a limitation or exception to the right of reproduction, the right of distribution, and the right of making available to the public as provided by the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), to facilitate the availability of works in accessible format copies for beneficiary persons.4 They may also provide an exception or a limitation to right of public performance for access under this treaty.

This treaty even provides for the cross border exchange of accessible format copies in which the accessible format copies are to be distributed or made available by an authorized entity to a beneficiary person or an authorized entity in another Contracting Party.5 The parties should allow the import and export of accessible format copies under certain conditions.6 The state parties even have obligations related to technological measures. They are supposed to ensure that they provide adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against the circumvention of effective technological measures.7

The parties are also required to support the privacy of the beneficiary persons.8 This treaty delegates the administrative tasks concerning this treaty to the International Bureau of WIPO.9 The Treaty establishes an Assembly of the Contracting Parties whose main task is to address matters concerning the maintenance and development of the Treaty. It also entrusts to the Secretariat of WIPO the administrative tasks concerning the Treaty.10

According to Ms. Veena Ish, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), "India's Copyright Amendments which came into effect on June, 2012, are already in complete harmony with the Marrakesh Treaty, thus putting India in a good position to implement the treaty. She also stated that India will be ratifying this treaty 'very soon'."

The Copyrights Act 1957 was amended in 2012 after realizing the need to broaden the ambit of several provisions. Section 52 (1) (zb) of the Copyrights Amendment Act, 2012 allows any person to facilitate access by persons with disabilities to copyrighted works without any payment of compensation to the copyright holder, and any organization working the benefit of persons with disabilities to do so as long as it is done on a non-profit basis and with reasonable steps being taken to prevent entry of reproductions of the copyrighted work into the mainstream. The scope of this section has been greatly broadened in benefit of the visually disabled. Section 52 (1) (zb) previously dealt with the formats that were "special designed only for the use of persons suffering from visual, aural, or other disabilities". It is interesting to note that this amendment was made just before the Marrakesh treaty. Hence, India's Copyright Act has been in consonance with the treaty.


This treaty would surely turn out to be a milestone towards the benefit of the blind and the visually impaired community. It would provide them with the access to culture and education. In the developing countries, where the majority of the blind community lives, the ratification of this treaty would transform lives. It is hoped that this treaty would create life changing opportunities.


1. 3rd Year Student, GNLU.


3. Article 3 of Marrakesh Treaty

4. Article 4

5. Article 5

6. Article 6

7. Article 7

8. Article 8

9. Article 14

10. Article 13

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.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.