You are here: Home / Accessibility / Blog / Seminar on Exceptions and Limitations in Copyright

Seminar on Exceptions and Limitations in Copyright

Posted by Sanchia de Souza at May 21, 2009 12:15 PM |
This is a report on a seminar organised by the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, and Government of India on 14 and 15 May 2009, in Kochi, Kerala, to look at exceptions and limitations in copyright. Programme Manager Nirmita Narsimhan, of the Centre for Internet and Society, attended the seminar.

CIS Programme Manager Nirmita Narsimhan attended a seminar on exceptions and limitations in copyright, organised by the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, and Government of India on 14 and 15 May 2009, in Kochi, Kerala. The seminar was intended to bring up key issues affecting access to knowledge, which are to be taken up by the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) later this month. Resource persons identified for different topics were eminent scholars, academicians and practitioners across India. The seminar covered eight topics. On each topic, a paper was presented by a resource person with commentary by an expert in the field, after which there was an open discussion.

The first day featured, amongst others, a paper presented by Lawrence Liang, Distinguished Fellow, CIS. He spoke at length on the exceptions and limitations for education.

The second day featured a paper by Mr. Madhukar Sinha, former Registrar of Copyright. Mr. Sinha presented on the topic 'Use of works by visually impaired and other miscellaneous exceptions of use of works under Indian Copyright Act: Section 52(1) (q), (r), (s), (t), (u), (v), and (x), (y), (z)'. His paper went into great length on definitions of visual disability and tried to evolve an economic model to support conversion of books into accessible formats for the visually challenged. The paper drew parallels with existing laws and best practices in different countries, made a detailed analysis of exceptions for the blind in the light of the Berne three-step test and the TRIPS agreement, and concluded by recommending that the Copyright Act should be amended to include exceptions and limitations which would permit conversion of books into formats in certain special cases. Mr. Sinha also recommended that India should look at solutions which go beyond the limits of the Copyright Act to solve such problems.

The response to this was prepared by Mr. Rahul Cherian of Indo Juris Law offices. The response paper drew attention to the fact that half of the total blind population of the world is in India and that amounts to a population of more than a crore. In the light of the economic and logistic considerations of our country, the Copyright Act should

  1. Expressly include a limitation to permit conversion of books into accessible formats for visually challenged persons;
  2. Permit conversion by stakeholder organizations as well as interested family members and friends of beneficiaries;
  3. Adopt a functional definition of disability and not a medical one as is currently the case in the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, and extend the benefit of the exception to all persons, who by reason of any disability are unable to access the work in its original format;and
  4. Not restrict conversion only to those formats which are exclusively for the use of blind persons. Visually challenged persons should be able to make use of available mainstream formats like PDFs or Word as well.

The paper also dealt extensively with the Treaty for Improved access for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Other Reading Disabled, which was proposed by the World Blind Union in WIPO last year and is coming up again for discussion later this month.

Please click here to see the complete text of the paper.

The seminar was extremely productive because there was a strong recommendation and support for the inclusion of a limitation for conversion into accessible formats for persons with disabilities in the Indian Copyright Act. All the members present came to a consensus that the Indian Government should take a supportive stand towards the Treaty for the Blind proposed by the WBU at the SCCR this month. A representative of a leading publishing house committed himself to working towards providing books to certain organizations for the blind, if they could assure him that those books would be circulated only to blind persons and not to others.