Increased access to alternate formats

06 July 2018

People with print disabilities will have access to more books and documents in alternative formats, thanks to important reforms to the Copyright Act 1968 passed by the Australian Government last month.

The changes to the Act include extending the safe harbour scheme to educational, cultural and disability sectors, including organisations such as Vision Australia, who currently offer the largest collection of alternate format resources in Australia.

Vision Australia General Manager for Advocacy and Engagement, Karen Knight said a lack of accessible information can deeply impact on the ability of a person with print disability to access education, employment and inclusion outcomes.

“Currently, only five per cent of books worldwide are converted into accessible formats and the changes to the legislation gives much needed legal protections to providers who are sharing alternate format documents for people with a print disability,” Ms Knight said.

The Marrakesh Treaty and the recent changes to copyright legislation allows organisations that represent print disability communities, in ratified countries, to make accessible copies of works without having to ask permission from the rights-holders. It also allows the cross-border exchange of accessible format books both between organisations and directly from an organisation to an individual.

“Quite simply, this means Vision Australia’s access to an expanded collection will benefit many thousands more people,” Ms Knight said.

“We can reproduce a title into a structured audio file without being concerned about breaching copyright.

“As an example, this would give a student convenient access to the pages and section headings of a textbook they actually need to read and learn, but they wouldn’t need to read the textbook from cover to cover,” Ms Knight concluded.

Minister for Communications, Senator Mitch Fifield, said the new legislation will improve copyright protections for the disability, educational and cultural sectors and facilitate more confident use of digital technologies and tools, particularly in the digital education environment.

“The safe harbour scheme will protect these sectors from legal liability where they can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to reduce copyright infringement on their online systems or networks,” Minister Fifield said.

The successful passage of the Bill is the result of extensive consultation with copyright users and rights holders.

Vision Australia commends the Federal Government’s commitment to modernising Australia’s 50 year-old copyright laws and looks forward to continuing to work together on further copyright reforms.