To date over 57 countries in the world, including the US but not the EU, have signed the WIPO Marrakesh Treaty for a copyright exception for millions of blind and other print-disabled persons. Nevertheless, no country has yet to legally ratify the treaty. This last point was stressed today by the European Commission´s representative Martín Prat in the European Parliament today.
In the EU the ratification process is especially slow and complicated. There is no roadmap nor timetable. What needs to be done by whom and when is far from clear.
Before the ratification process begins the 28 EU member states must give the green light for the signature of the Treaty by the EU Council. Then, the European Commission and the Council must decide if ratification of the Treaty is of exclusive EU competence or of “mixed competence” with member states. If the competence is shared, all 28 member states must individually ratify the Treaty.
In today´s European Parliament Legal Affairs committee no clear answers were given by the EC´s Martín Prat to the questions posed by MEPs. Only a timetable was suggested for EU signature for early 2014 but the path to posterior ratification was presented as very long, confusing and torturous.
Maria Martín Prat suggested that new EU copyright legislation proposed sometime in 2014 could incorporate the Marrakesh Treaty and that this might be needed before ratification to harmonize EU member state laws on exceptions to copyright. This proposal that would mean a number years of delay in the ratification of the treaty was criticized by a number of MEPs present. Martin Prat gave as an example of why a new law would be needed the presence of “dyslexic persons” in the Treaty which is not covered by EU copyright exceptions legislation.
While MEPs stated that changes in EU law could take place after ratification, Martín Prat did not say why legal changes should take place beforehand. The EC told MEPs to put pressure on EU member states and one MEP responded by insisting by asking what the Commission itself was doing to push through the ratification of the Treaty.
The Legal Affairs Committee will consider writing a letter on the issue to EU member states and the presentation of an oral question to the EU Council on the ratification process.
There was a general feeling of frustration in the room which contrasted with the unanimous satisfaction expressed over the Marrakech Treaty agreement reached last June.
On December 17th the European Blind Union and a cross-party group of MEPs led by Luigi Berlinguer, Eva Lichtenberger and Francisco Sosa Wagner will organize an event in the European Parliament that will demand the swift ratification and application of the Marrakesh Treaty by the EU.