The past two years: Law reform in the UK
The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Disability) Regulations 2014 brought about much-needed changes to the law regarding making copies for readers with print impairments. The main change has been to bring the definition of qualifying disability more into line with the Equality Act 2010, stating that a work can be copied to the extent needed for the person to enjoy the work to the same degree as a person who does not have that disability. Another major change has been the removal of section 31D on licensing schemes, which had previously limited the making and sharing of accessible copies under section 31B.
On the international front, in the year prior to this, it is worth mentioning that the Marrakesh VIP Treaty was adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco in June 2013. The UK was among the first signatories but getting the Treaty to take full effect has not been easy or straightforward.
The current picture: Impact and processes in Higher Education libraries
Two things, I feel, have had the most impact. First is the widening of the exception to include all disabilities. Second is the power to share accessible and intermediate copies amongst authorised bodies - charities and educational establishments.
However, with the power to share comes extra responsibility. Protection for rights holders is built into this exception: primarily, an accessible copy may not be made if it is already commercially available on reasonable terms; secondly, when making an accessible or intermediate copy and storing it for future use, or sharing it with other authorised bodies, the institution must notify the rights holder. For this reason we have been trying to join forces with other stakeholders in the process, such as RNIB Bookshare. The CLA HE Licence also has generous terms regarding accessible copies, and members of the UUK Working Group are in consultation with the CLA and the Publishers Association about the possibility of using some of their infrastructure and services for requesting and storing accessible copies.
The workflow can be incredibly convoluted and frustrating at times, but as our understanding of what is legal and possible grows, it is improving. And, of course, the main thing is our users. We can now provide our alternative formats service to a much wider range of users. We are delivering about 1/4 of our requests as a result of publisher/RNIB files, which results in a much quicker service, and frees up a great deal of staff time to deal with more specialised conversions.
Looking to the future: Marrakesh and beyond
In my view, there are three key things on the horizon:
- Improving eBook accessibility: if more eBooks were accessible at source, this would give (i) our readers more independence, (ii) libraries better value for money, and (iii) publishers return on investment for their accessibility features. As librarians we need to educate our users in how to use these features, and publishers need to ensure that their products and platforms meet a range of accessibility requirements. The UK eBook Accessibility Audit, launched in August 2016, used crowdsourcing techniques to analyse the features from a wide range of platforms.
- The DSA funding changes have placed a greater responsibility on institutions to make reasonable adjustments, and this includes access to books and other resources. Libraries must work with each other and other stakeholders in the accessible information supply chain. We have really had to skill up and think creatively - for example, creating accessible tables for phonetics symbols, and 3D printouts of neuroanatomy resources; all things that don't simply scan to paper form. The lis-accessibility Jiscmail list has been a truly valuable space for people to come together to share ideas and experiences.
- Ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty has proved a rather contentious issue within the EU. CILIP have been posting regular updates for the sector - read the latest one here. It is a game changer because it focuses on user rights, specifically the rights of the print-impaired community, and when it is in force throughout the EU it should go some way towards addressing the global book famine.
Ruth MacMullen is an academic librarian and copyright specialist with an interest in contracts and accessible information. She currently works at York St John University. She is a member of the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance and the Universities UK Copyright Working Group.
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Our new website has undergone a number of changes, one of which is the exciting relaunch of our HE sector blogs. Each month will see the release of two blogs - one on general issues that are relevant and important to the HE sector, and one dedicated to the DCS. A key way that we're changing our blogs is to make them more inclusive for the HE community. So while a CLA authored blog will be published each month, we're also looking for external guest writers to contribute the month's other blog. If you are interested in writing for us, either on an issue you feel is important to the HE sector, or on your experiences with the DCS, then please get in touch.