17 May 2013

Why are Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle Backing the Fight *Against* the Blind?

One of the more disgraceful examples of the inherent selfishness of the copyright world is that it has consistently blocked a global treaty that would make it easier for the blind and visually impaired to read books in formats like Braille. The thinking seems to be that it's more important to preserve copyright "inviolate" than to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

You can read the disgusting details of how publishers have fought against the "proposed international instrument on limitations and exceptions for persons with print disabilities" for *30* years in an column I wrote back in 2011.

Amazingly, things have got even worse since then, with most of the fault lying at the feet of the US and EU, which are more concerned about placating their publishing industries than helping the poor and disabled around the world. And just when you think it can't get any worse, it does:

In a May 14, 2013 letter signed by Markus Beyrer, a Brussels based corporate lobby group known as Business Europe has sent a letter to Commissioners Michel Barnier and Karel De Gucht opposing the WIPO treaty on copyright exceptions for persons who are blind or have other disabilities. .... Business Europe describes itself as "the main horizontal business organization at the EU level." It represents 41 national business organizations in 35 European countries, claiming to promote "growth and competitiveness in Europe." Below is a list of the 55 member companies on its Corporate Advisory and Support Group, which describes its main constituency.

What readers of this blog may find most of interest are the names of the companies from the computer industry that are supporting this move to deny the blind even the smallest solace. Here are the main ones:


These are companies that often like to present themselves as decent and caring organizations whose pursuit of profit is balanced by a deep respect for fundamental human values. But their support here for the Business Europe lobbying group and its attempt to make it even harder for the blind to gain belatedly basic human rights like being able to read books – something that most of us are able to take for granted - is simply unacceptable.

I therefore call on Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle to dissociate themselves from the Business Europe group and its attempt to keep blind people in their darkness. If those companies refuse, we will know that their claims to any kind of humanity are shams, and should treat them with the contempt that they deserve.

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