by Mark Malek
Well, this story is a little near and dear to my heart. My mother is blind so, naturally, this caught my attention. The AP reported that Stevie Wonder appeared before WIPO, and agency of the United Nations, to urge the copyright overseers to ease copyright laws so that content is more readily available to the blind. As Stevie puts it, “more than 300 million people who live in the dark want to read their way into light.”
The issue is that under the current copyright regulations, institutes for the blind in different countries may be required to make multiple audiobook versions of the same work. Of course, this leads to higher costs and due to the trickledown effect, can leave underfunded institutes for the blind in the position of not being able to afford the content to pass along to the people that need it most.
This likely would not be a problem but for the rash of piracy that occurs on the internet day in and day out. The copyright laws have been revamped so many times in an attempt to capture the bad actors on the internet, e.g., The Pirate Bay, et al. Sometimes, however, these enhanced copyright laws have unintended consequences, such as making it more difficult to provide content for the blind and visually impaired. One goal would be to provide a clearinghouse for institutes for the blind to deposit materials that can be readily translated as necessary and made available to those in need.
It is commendable that an individual who has made his fortune based on the enforcement of copyrights recognizes the unintended results of more stringent copyright laws and is now trying to make a difference in the lives of others afflicted with his condition.