The Ministry of Trade and Industry has announced that the amendment of the law on protection of intellectual property proposes to make it legal to produce and distribute copies of works in formats accessible to people with visual impairment without seeking the authorization of rights holders could be adopted within four months. Examples of accessible formats include Braille, books on devices such as Orbit Readers, books with audio components among others. According to the Marrakesh Treaty, each country is required to create one or more limitations or exceptions to copyright law meaning a range of acts are permitted without infringing copyright in the interests of beneficiaries. Also read: Rwanda accedes to Marrakesh Treaty to deepen inclusiveness of persons with disability. The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted on June 27, 2013 and it entered into force on September 30, 2016. The treaty was ratified by Rwanda on September 7, 2020. It builds up a relationship between intellectual property treaties and human rights conventions, especially the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The treaty wants governments to establish a set of limitations and exceptions to traditional copyright law. However, the Rwanda Copyright Law still has barriers to the treaty’s implementation as it requires that before making any materials accessible, permission needs to be sought from the owners or publishers of such works to protect their businesses. Also read: Will visually impaired learners’ hurdles end soon? “We hope that the law will be enacted within three or four months. It delayed because we had to adhere Budapest convention to the law on protection of intellectual property,” Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, the minister of trade and industry told The New Times in a phone interview. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, usually known as the Berne Convention seeks the protection of original work. “The cabinet tabled the amendments to parliament; we hope the process would be completed soon,” he said. He added that the new law on intellectual property should grant permission to reproduce published books into accessible formats. A glance at proposed changes The draft law on protection of intellectual property considered the Marrakesh treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. Also read: Visually impaired to get easy access to published works This draft law incorporates the relevant provisions of Marrakesh Treaty accessed pertaining to the interest of visually impaired persons, which were not sufficiently included in the current law. Article 331 of the draft law proposes free reproduction of a work for persons with intellectual or physical disabilities. “An authorized entity can, without the authorisation of the author or other owner of copyright and without payment, make an accessible format copy of a work, obtain from another authorised entity an accessible format copy, and supply those copies to persons who are visually impaired or print disabled by any means, including by non-commercial lending or by electronic communication by wire or wireless means,” it says. The authorised entity wishing to undertake said activity has lawful access to that work or a copy of that work. The work is converted to an accessible format copy, which may include any means needed to navigate information in the accessible format, but does not introduce changes other than those needed to make the work accessible to the person who is visually impaired or print disabled. Such accessible format copies are supplied exclusively to be used by persons who are visually impaired or print disabled. The activity is undertaken on a non- profit basis; the proposed law says. “A person who is visually impaired or print disabled, who may be assisted by someone acting on his or her behalf including a primary caretaker or caregiver, without the authorisation of the author or other owner of copyright and without payment, is permitted to make an accessible format copy of a work for his or her personal use or otherwise assist himself or herself to make and use accessible format copies where he or she has lawful access to that work or a copy of that work,” it says. Provisions of this Article apply to the works that are in the form of text, notation or related illustrations, whether published or otherwise made publicly available in any media, including works in audio form, such as audiobooks. They also apply to objects of related rights as necessary to make accessible format copies. Article 332 of the draft law requests free distribution or importation of work for persons with intellectual or physical disabilities. An authorised entity can, without the authorisation of the author or other owner of copyright and without payment, distribute or make available accessible format copies to an authorised entity for the exclusive use of persons who are visually impaired or print disabled; or directly to a person who is visually impaired or print disabled in another country party to the Marrakesh Treaty. The permission granted applies provided that prior to the distribution or making available the originating authorised entity did not know or did not have reasonable grounds to know that the accessible format copy would be used for other persons other than those who are visually impaired or print disabled. Such distribution or making available accessible format copies is limited to certain special cases, matters that do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work or object of related rights, matters that do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author or other owner of copyright. A person who is visually impaired or print disabled, or someone acting on his or her behalf, or an authorised entity, is permitted to import an accessible format copy for the benefit of that disabled person, without the authorisation of the author or other owner of copyright and without payment. Rachel Musabyimana, the Advocacy and Communication Officer at Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) told The New Times that the domestication of Marrakesh Treaty should be fast-tracked to address challenges faced by visually impaired people. “The treaty was ratified and it should be implemented. Children who are visually impaired at schools have no access to formats such as novels because the treaty is not yet implemented. The schools have no authorization from authors to make these education materials accessible in the format suitable for people with visual impairment,” she said. She said that the law, once adopted, will promote quality education and regional integration. “The importation of the materials in accessible format will be easy once the treaty is implemented. The information on websites has also to be in accessible format for visually impaired people,” she said.