Friday, May 29, 2009

Harper's brave stand against the disabled

Once again our government is purporting to "represent" our interests abroad, this time by beating up on disabled people. (Unfortunately, the latter seems to be an all-too-popular pastime for some conservatives.)

Read Cory Doctorow's account of what's going on right now in Geneva. The current meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization is considering a copyright treaty that would extend rights to certain copyright users:

The main aim of the treaty is to allow the cross-border import and export of digital copies of books and other copyrighted works in formats that are accessible to persons who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or have other reading disabilities, using special devices that present text as refreshable braille, computer generated text to speech, or large type. These works, which are expensive to make, are typically created under national exceptions to copyright law that are specifically written to benefit persons with disabilities...

Needless to say, the corporate publishers are opposed, and have mounted a fierce lobby against this access for the disabled. And Canada, naturally, has fallen into line, along with the US, Australia, New Zealand, Norway--and (here I'll bite my tongue) the Vatican.

This treaty could be lost unless world-wide reaction is quickly felt.

Says Doctorow:

Activists at WIPO are desperate to get the word out. They're tweeting madly from the negotiation (technically called the 18th session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights) publishing editorials on the Huffington Post, etc.

Here's where you come in: this has to get wide exposure, to get cast as broadly as possible, so that it will find its way into the ears of the obscure power-brokers who control national trade-negotiators.

I don't often ask readers to do things like this, but please, forward this post to people you know in the US, Canada and the EU, and ask them to reblog, tweet, and spread the word, especially to government officials and activists who work on disabled rights. We know that WIPO negotiations can be overwhelmed by citizen activists -- that's how we killed the Broadcast Treaty negotiation a few years back -- and with your help, we can make history, and create a world where copyright law protects the public interest.

Let's help get the word out.
There's no time to lose.

[H/t boingboing via psa]

UPDATE: (May 30) A partial victory! The matter has been put on hold until the Fall. That gives us more time to shame the Harper government into supporting the treaty--let's get on it.

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