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To ensure that copyright legislation and protection does not inadvertently decrease or unduly limit the accessibility of information to blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted readers.

Need for Action

Access to information in alternative formats (such as electronic text, audio, or braille) is critical for blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted readers.  As technology evolves and digital media (such as eBooks and downloadable audio books) become more mainstream, authors and publishers are growing increasingly concerned with devising methods of protecting their intellectual property, to prevent unauthorized copying, duplication and distribution of their works.

Unfortunately, in many instances, the techniques and strategies employed also make it impossible for asssitive technology (such as text-to-speech software) to access the content, too.  Many eBooks, especially those distributed in the PDF format, are "locked" and "secured" to the point that blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted users are unable to access it.  Publishers are often reluctant or unwilling to provide more accessible versions, citing copyright concerns.

We need to ensure that any new provisions and changes which are introduced into the copyright legislation do not further limit the availability of these materials to blind and partially sighted readers.

Proposed Solutions

  1. Ensure that existing copyright exemptions (that allow third-party organizations to produce alternative format materials at the request of a blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted reader, without having to jump through permissions hoops) remain intact and are strengthened.
  2. Ensure that any new provisions in the Copyright Act (such as those making it a criminal offense to circumvent anti-copying mechanisms) are not applied in cases where such action is necessary to access the material in the first place.
  3. Require that publishers provide alternative, accessible formats for their publications or that, if they are unwilling or unable to do so, they allow a third-party producer to do so (without charge).

How You Can Help

  • Consider the accessibility implications of any new copyright or intellectual property legislation that you might hear about.
  • Speak with your elected representatives about the issue, and make them aware of the side effects that these extreme security measures can have on the accessibility of information.