DMCA hearings: visually impaired/ereaders

Copyright Office: Jacqueline Charlesworth
Michelle Choe
Regan Smith
Cy Donnelly
Steve Ruhe
John Riley
Stacy Cheney (NTIA)
 
In and out: this took 15 minutes.  This exemption will, I predict, be granted.
 
Proposed Class 9: Literary works distributed electronically – assistive technologies
This proposed class would allow circumvention of access controls on lawfully made and acquired literary works distributed electronically for purposes of accessibility for persons who are print disabled. This exemption has been requested for literary works distributed electronically, including e-books, digital textbooks, and PDF articles.
 
Proponents: Blake Reid, Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic at Colorado Law
 
You’ve seen contentious exemptions and complicated issues; this one is very basic: the right of people who are visually impaired to read books. Basic human right, key to democratic society, uncontroversial renewal. We’re not asking for modifications, largely unapposed including AAP (notwithstanding reservations); circumstances have changed only marginally and circumvention is still necessary on individual and institutional level. Use is noninfringing, even more after HathiTrust; still very limited availability of noncircumventing alternatives. Only material changed circumstance is the Marrakesh Treaty, which makes this exemption necessary for compliance.
 
C: Thank you and students for helping to make a record in this class. It’s been very helpful to establish a need for an exemption.
 
Jonathan Band, Library Copyright Alliance: No one’s opposing.  Marrakesh Treaty point deserves to be reiterated: if treaty is ratified w/in the next 3 years, we need to have the exemption in place for compliance.
 
C: Can you elaborate on intersection of exemption and treaty?
 
Band: the treaty has a provision that countries need to have a way for visually impaired/authorized entities to circumvent to take advantage of any access authorized by treaty. Better to be statutory and not in need of renewal, but this would at least enable people to take actions authorized by Treaty.
 
Q: AAP mentioned epub and HTML5 format—could you provide more info?
 
Reid: we’re actually very hopeful about those formats someday being adopted on a widespread basis and provide a noncircumventing alternative in our lifetimes. Someday I may be able to avoid seeking renewal b/c all books come out in epub3 accessible, interoperable formats that work with text-to-speech and ereaders and braille readers. Unfortunate reality: not there yet, and not in next 3 years.  At this point, adoption is inconsistent; availability of titles in those formats and interoperability of titles purchased on particular platforms still isn’t there. I hope to have a different answer next time.
 
Band: even if we get to a point where all new books coming out meet that standard, you still have a legacy problem.
 
Reid: worth noting that addressing access to the archive will be a really hard problem. Every year that goes by w/o accessible format creates more archive that isn’t accessible. There are other challenges like user interfaces on tablets and phones; the tech has a long way to go. Encourage you to discuss w/relative, family member, friend who’s visually impaired—ask them how they use a tablet to access even a noncircumvented book.  You will think it’s broken: the computerized voice is bad; the tech has a long way to go. This exemption won’t fix everything, but it’s a helpful band-aid for folks looking to engage in self-help or to make books available to students or clients at an authorized entity.
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