Today, at the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights in Geneva, various statements were introduced by governments on a proposed treaty for the visually impaired. In the interest of full disclosure, my employer recently submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office a statement in support of the treaty (See here). A number of developing countries' positions were disappointing in their lack of meaningful support of the proposed treaty. Certainly if those making statements in actual opposition had available to them the minuscule amount the visually impaired have, their views would be quite different. Theirs is a failure both of compassion and a failure to recognize the positive role of copyright in furthering access. Some apparently are willing to sacrifice the neediest in order to hold on to more than they already deserve. It is easy to find reasons not to do something; the mark of a generous and compassionate soul is finding reasons to do something.
In this context, I applaud and we all should applaud the statement submitted by United States (available here). The statement is the most genuinely balanced and forward-looking U.S. government document on copyright I have read since the days of the great Registers of Copyrights, Abraham Kaminstein and Barbara Ringer. Kudos to Justin Hughes, head of the U.S. delegation. I quote only the final paragraph, but one should read it all:
We recognize that some in the international copyright community believe that any international consensus on substantive limitations and exceptions to copyright law would weaken international copyright law. The United States does not share that point of view. The United States is committed to both better exceptions in copyright law and better enforcement of copyright law. Indeed, as we work with countries to establish consensus on proper, basic exceptions within copyright law, we will ask countries to work with us to improve the enforcement of copyright. This is part and parcel of a balanced international system of intellectual property.