Volume 7 Issue 1 - January 01, 2010

Copyright Act to be amended

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: Along with the Right to Education Act, another Act is on its way to getting amended. The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of the Amendment Bill to the Copyright Act, 1957 which will waive the copyright fees for converting material into special formats like Braille. But disabled rights activists are unhappy about the fact that the amendments have left out other special formats like audio books, etc.

It may be mentioned that the Coalition for an Inclusive Society had submitted a representation to Kapil Sibal, Minister for Human Resource Development, on the need to ensure converting books into special formats other than Braille and e-books. Otherwise many developmental disabilities like people with cerebral palsy, dyslexia, etc. who require other formats would be left out of the Act.

Rahul Cherian of Coalition for an Inclusive Society said, The amendment proposes to have a separate provision for conversion and distribution of material into "non-specialised" formats such as e-text or audio. But it is appears that this provision is not automatic (like in the case of Braille) and applications would have to be made to the Copyright Board to convert and distribute these formats. This is clearly not satisfactory since this application system could be time consuming and cumbersome and will stand in the way of millions of people who want to exercise their right to knowledge.

This is clearly discriminatory under Article 14 of the Constitution (Equality) since it treats persons with disabilities in a discriminatory fashion, he added.

Nirmita Narasimhan of Centre for Internet and Society feels that the effort of the Ministry should be focused more on mainstreaming persons with disabilities rather than trying to put them in a separate category and creating resources for them which do not cater to the public in general.

Ideally if persons with screen readers are comfortable reading documents in word, text, h.t.m.l. or other mainstream formats, one shouldn't impose the criteria of a specialised format here and make life complicated for everybody since it is not required. An easy solution to start with would be to remove the word "specialised" before the word "format". So it would essentially mean that conversion into a format which is accessible to the person and not a generic definition of specialised format should be followed, she explained.

The provision also seems to be ambiguous on the point of safeguards against Technology Prevention Measures (T.C.M.s.) and Digital Rights Management (D.R.M.), she felt.

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