On behalf of the blindness community, the Blind Foundation and Blind Citizens NZ would like to congratulate the New Zealand government on their progress towards ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty, following the examination debate in parliament yesterday afternoon.

Blind Foundation’s General Manager of Strategic Relations Neil Jarvis said: “This is an important and significant step forward towards the treaty, which will lead to wider access to information for the 168,000 people with print disabilities in New Zealand.”

National President for Blind Citizens NZ Dr Jonathan Godfrey said: “The treaty will make meaningful change to the lives of thousands of New Zealanders by making it much easier for people to access, distribute and share a wider variety of copyrighted works in formats such as braille, large print or audio books.

The Marrakesh Treaty is an international treaty allowing for copyright exceptions for accessible versions of books and other copyrighted works for people with a print disability, which includes those with vision impairments.

It is estimated that less than 10% of published information generally available to the community is also accessible to those with a print disability, which feeds into barriers of education, employment and social inclusion.

Jarvis explained the need for the treaty can be understood using the Harry Potter book series to illustrate: “Without the treaty, every country has to produce its own accessible version of a Harry Potter book rather than sharing an existing one. This makes it an incredibly inefficient and costly exercise, resulting in what we have seen as a worldwide famine of written material available to those with a print disability.”

We know 34 countries have now ratified the Marrakesh Treaty, and dozens more have signed the treaty in commitment of joining.

Godfrey commented that: “An international treaty like this requires us to join with other countries to get the best for blind people. When New Zealand becomes part of it, we will have a noticeable impact on making a difference for our young people who need a
greater range of information to have the best chances in education, and gaining meaningful employment. New Zealand stands to gain from joining up, but we must also play our part. Blind children all over the world deserve a chance to listen to awesome New Zealand stories with Maori words pronounced by audio narrators who know and care for Te Reo.”

“On behalf of the Blind sector Jonathan and I would like to thank the New Zealand government and in particular Minister Faafoi and former Ministers Dean, Goldsmith, Foss and Wagner for understanding the Treaty’s importance and moving to become part of it,” said Jarvis.

The Blind Foundation and Blind Citizens NZ urges speedy introduction of the Copyright Amendment Bill to enable the treaty, and looks forward to seeing it progress.