13 December 2009

Of Access to Copyright Materials and Blindness

In a way, I suppose we should be grateful that the content industries have decided to dig their heels in over the question of providing more access to copyright materials for the visually impaired. For it leads to revelatory posts like this, which offer an extraordinary glimpse into the twisted, crimped souls of those fighting tooth and nail against the needs of the blind and visually impaired:

the treaty now being proposed would not be compatible with US copyright laws and norms, and would undermine the goal of expanded access that we all share. This overreaching treaty would also harm the rights of authors and other artists, and the incentives necessary for them to create and commercialize their works. We strongly believe improving access for one community should not mean that another loses its rights in the process.

Let's just look at that.

First, in what sense is providing more access to the visually impaired not compatible with US copyright laws? The proponents of this change have gone out of their way to make sure that the access given is within current copyright regimes, which are not serving this huge, disadvantaged constituency properly. And how would it undermine expanded access? It would, manifestly, provide access that is not available now; the publishers have proposed nothing that would address the problem other than saying the system's fine, we don't want to change it.

But the most telling - and frankly, sickening - aspect of this post is the way its author sets up the rights of authors against the rights of those with visual disabilities, as if the latter are little better than those scurvy "pirates" that "steal" copyright material from those poor authors.

In fact, *nothing* is being taken, it's simply that these people wish to enjoy their rights to read as others do - something that has been denied to them by an industry indifferent to their plight. And which author would not be happy to extend the pleasure of reading their works to those cut off from it by virtue of physical disabilities?

If Mark Esper thinks that is an unreasonable, outrageous goal for the visually impaired, and that maximalist copyright trumps all other humanitarian considerations, he is a truly sad human being, and I pity him. He should try looking in the mirror sometime - and be glad that he can, unlike those whose rights he so despises. (Via Jamie Love.)

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