Marrakesh Treaty effective in China, grants 17m print-disabled people with more access to culture, education
Published: May 05, 2022 08:27 PM
Books by disabled authors are displayed in a dedicated zone at Shanyuan Book Chamber in Beijing, capital of China, April 14, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Books by disabled authors are displayed in a dedicated zone at Shanyuan Book Chamber in Beijing, capital of China, April 14, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

The Marrakesh Treaty, the first and only human rights treaty that is copyrighted, officially came into force in China on Thursday. Observers said it is a practical move that China adopted to expand the country's human rights protection sphere for some 17 million print-disabled people, giving them equal access to culture and education.

The treaty allows authorized entities to produce print-disabled friendly formats of cultural works without authorization from copyright holders, either Braille books, audiobooks or films and TV shows. It will also facilitate China's excellent print-disabled works to enter foreign markets. 

Relevant authorities are stipulating detailed policies to implement the treaty, regarding the process of producing print-disabled works and how to supervise authorized entities, as well as cross-border exchanges in the field.

Before the adoption of the treaty, printing Braille books was the only legal format that could be adjusted to print format without copyright holders' authorization. As audiobooks, large-character books, electronic texts, and barrier-free adaptations of films and TV shows require authorization from copyright owners. The production normally takes time and money. 

Li Qingzhong, the president of the China Association of the Blind, said the coming into force of the treaty will play a positive role in the cultural and educational industries for print-disabled people. Data showed there are 17.32 million people with visual disabilities in China, and the number of people with dyslexia may be even higher than this. 

The adoption of the treaty expands the scope of human rights protection in the process of social development and is an example of how China fulfills promises of protecting human rights to the international community, He Zhipeng, a professor of international law at the School of Law with Jilin University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Introduction of the treaty allows print-disabled groups to enjoy works and receive education on an equal basis. It will greatly enrich their spiritual and cultural lives, further enhance China's discourse power and influence in the field of international copyright, and most importantly, it presents China's words and deeds in fully respecting human rights, He said. 

The Chinese government puts great emphasis on the protection of disabled people's rights and interests, and it has comprehensively enhanced the construction of a barrier-free environment to make it more convenient for people with disabilities to live, study and work, Guo Liqun, spokesperson of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, said when China's State Council Information Office issued a white paper titled "China's Parasports: Progress and the Protection of Rights" on March 3 this year. 

China constantly improves the coverage of accessible facilities. In the country, 81 percent of entrances and exits, 56 percent of service counters and 38 percent of restrooms of the comprehensive service facilities in villages (communities) have been equipped or upgraded for accessibility.

Between 2016 and 2020, China helped some 650,000 poor families with severely disabled members adapt their homes to suit the needs of the disabled members, provided support for the disabled in fighting poverty and improved their living standards, said Guo.

During the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, an energy-efficient printing technology was used for the Braille version of the manual for athletes and officials, as well as the spectators' guide, venue introduction and maps. It was the largest use of Braille in the history of the Winter Olympics, which showed the world China's technological development and progress, especially in caring for people with disabilities.

China always pays close attention to the standards and processes of international legal norms in the field of human rights protection, and it actively cooperates and makes unremitting efforts with others to realize fuller human rights, He said. 

As one of the first signatories to the Marrakesh Treaty, China actively participated in the drafting and advocacy of the treaty, but due to incompatibilities between China's Copyright Law and the Marrakesh Treaty at that time, China was not able to have access to the treaty until after the Copyright Law was revised to fit the contents of the treaty, which came into force in 2021. 

In February, China handed the ratification paper of the Marrakesh Treaty to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) after China's top legislature adopted a decision on ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty in October 2021.

To implement the treaty, China Braille Press, the only public publishing institution in China that provides various kinds of blind books for more than 17 million visually impaired people, is working on creating all possible conditions to help the blind to equally access knowledge and education and introduce good Chinese productions overseas.