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Singapore begins consultation on copyright exceptions for the visually impaired

The IP Office of Singapore seeks comments on proposed amendments to the copyright law as Singapore looks to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty

The treaty, ratified on June 28, seeks to harmonise and delineate exceptions to copyright protection to improve access to written works by the visually impaired.

Before the Marrakesh Treaty, a number of countries already had copyright exceptions providing for access for visually impaired persons. Singapore is one such country. Its laws provide for the reproduction of literary and dramatic works into Braille, large print, photographic and sound recorded formats. The current law does not make an exception for the exchange of accessible works with institutions in other countries.

However, Marrakesh seeks to harmonise and in some instances expand these exceptions, and Singapore’s draft amendments appear to be consistent with this. The proposed law would expand the exception to reproduce copyrighted works into any format accessible to the visually impaired, not just the ones specifically outlined in the law, as well as expand the types of works to include architectural and engineering drawings. The draft revision also creates an exception for institutions whose primary purpose is to assist visually impaired readers to import and export copyrighted works in accessible formats to foreign institutions.

According to Justin Hughes, the chief US negotiator on the Marrakesh Treaty, the lack of cross-border exchanges of accessible works is a particularly vexing problem. For example, many institutions in Chile and Argentina do not have access to the sizeable library of Spanish-language accessible works maintained by the Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles in Spain, resulting in considerable duplicated efforts creating such works and what the World Blind Union calls a book famine.

The text of Singapore’s proposed bill can be found here. Comments may be submitted by email to until November 22.

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