Disability rights activists oppose copyright regime

The proposed amendments to the Copyright Act (1957), slated to be tabled in the second phase of the budget session of Parliament that begins on Thursday, has disability rights activists up in arms.

The copyright exception, which aims at allowing persons with disability easy access to copyrighted material, is “restrictive and discriminatory,” disability rights organisations believe.

Their demands for reworking this “exception,” that leaves out a large section of disabled persons who cannot access “special formats” (which include only Braille and sign language), have thus far gone unheeded. While a sub-committee was formed to look into the film industry-related parts of the legislation, the demands of disability activists have been ignored. In the run-up to the budget session, disability rights activists cutting across party lines are lobbying for their cause.

The Indian Copyright Act does not explicitly allow for conversion and distribution of reading material in alternative formats that are accessible to persons with disability. A draft amendment, that was made public in February by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, introduces a copyright exception for reproduction or issue of copies in formats “specially designed” for persons with disabilities, such as Braille and sign language.

However, this “token exception” leaves out a large section of people affected by cerebral palsy, dyslexia or partial impairment. A sizeable section of the visually impaired is not trained in Braille and relies on audio, and reading material with large fonts and electronic texts. The proposed copyright exception is of no use to this section.

Further, this amendment will be of no use even for conversion to Braille. Rahul Cherian, a copyright lawyer working with Inclusive Planet, a non-governmental organisation in this sector, points out that new electronic Braille printers require input in a document format, which also does not fall under the purview of this proposed exception.

In India, where less than 0.5 per cent of reading material is available in electronic formats, it is vital that legal provisions facilitate easier access to copyrighted works. “Does not a person with cerebral palsy, who cannot hold a book, or has low vision and needs assistive technology, deserve access to more reading and study material?” asks Mr. Cherian.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 6:50:23 PM |

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