From Marrakech to Ottawa

Committee considering Marrakech Treaty

Chief Librarian Victoria Owen (seated, second from right) with last year’s Senate committee considering the Marrakech Treaty.

It can be a struggle to get materials for those who have a disability that makes it hard to read in print. Over the last few years, U of T Scarborough’s Chief Librarian has been part of an international effort to ease that struggle.

Victoria Owen attended the international meeting that led to The Marrakech Treaty in 2013, an international agreement that allows making accessible formats available to “print disabled persons” without violating copyright laws.

When Canada became the 20th country to ratify the treaty, “there was much rejoicing,” says Owen, because the agreement required 20 signatories to bring it into force.

Owen spoke on behalf of Canadian libraries to a Senate committee last year to request that they make two amendments to Canada’s version of the law — the legislation required that royalties be paid and that producers check to see if there is an accessible version already on the market. The problem with these two items, she says, is that it increases costs and time to develop the materials, and therefore limits access.

“Access to knowledge is a humanitarian issue,” says Victoria Owen. “Libraries are all about access—it’s important for public policy for libraries to be involved.”

The Senate eventually passed the law without amendments, but the committee called on the government to consider the two objections after one year.