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Introduction of copyright safe harbour laws to boost availability of accessible information

07 December 2017

Disability advocates are celebrating the introduction of the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017, by the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Mitch Fifield.

Vision Australia General Manager for Advocacy and Engagement, Karen Knight noted that the Bill shall give certainty to providers who are sharing alternate format documents for people with a print disability.

“A lack of accessible information can deeply impact on the ability of a person with print disability to access education, employment and inclusion outcomes,” Ms Knight said. “Currently, only five per cent of books worldwide are converted into accessible formats.”

“The Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017 will afford much needed legal protections to organisations like Vision Australia, which currently offers the largest collection of alternate format resources in Australia,” Ms Knight said. “With this new Bill, the expanded collection can benefit many thousands more people.”

“The Marrakesh Treaty and the recently passed Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and other Measures) Act 2017 allowed organisations that represent print disability communities, in ratified countries, to make accessible copies of works without having to ask permission from the rights-holders. It also permits the cross-border exchange of accessible format books both between organisations and directly from an organisation to an individual.”

The proposed changes in the new Bill will protect organisations from legal liability where they can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to deal with copyright infringement by users of their online platforms.

Vision Australia considers these protections essential, as they guarantee that materials can be offered in the widest range possible to people who are blind or have low vision, or other print disability.

“These changes will mean we can legitimately reproduce a title into a structured audio file. As an example, this would give a student convenient access to the pages and section headings they actually need to read and learn, but they wouldn’t need to read the text book from cover to cover,” Ms Knight concluded.

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