TLPC Advocates for Expansion of E-Book Accessibility Exemption to Section 1201 of the DMCA

On April 5, 2021, the TLPC, on behalf of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and a coalition of other organizations, appeared at a hearing before the U.S. Copyright Office to urge expansion of an existing exemption from the the anticircumvention measures of Section of 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that allows the remediation of e-books into accessible formats. The expansions were designed to help the U.S. fulfill its obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The public hearing was one of the final stages in the eighth triennial rulemaking proceeding under Section 1201, which provides that the Librarian of Congress, upon the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, may adopt temporary exemptions to section 1201’s prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works.

The Marrakesh Treaty’s main aim is to end the global book famine—the dire shortage of accessible-format copies of books worldwide. To ensure compliance with the United States’ obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty, the proposal would expand the scope of eligible persons and covered copyrighted works under the the existing exemption. As a result, people with disabilities and the organizations that serve them will have additional freedom to ensure that e-books are accessible for people who are blind, visually impaired, and people with perceptual or reading disabilities or with physical disabilities that affect reading. The proposal would also update the current language of the exemption to replace the term “mainstream copy” of a work with a more inclusive phrase such as “inaccessible copy.”

The hearing was preceded by a pair of petitions and initial and reply comments drafted by TLPC student attorneys Mikaela Colvin, Gabriel Lennon, Matthew Fedder, and Mariam Ayvazyan. The TLPC worked closely with ACB and other organizations that signed on to the petition, including the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Library Copyright Alliance, Benetech/Bookshare, HathiTrust, and the Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library.