The Right to Read in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan becomes the first country in central Asia to accede to the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities

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Speakers at the seminar table.
Participants at the national seminar on the Marrakesh Treaty in Bishkek in April 2018. The first international transfer of accessible books in Kyrgyzstan under the Marrakesh Treaty took place during the seminar.

To fulfill the promise of the right to read for blind, visually impaired and other print disabled people, EIFL is supporting ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in partner countries, and its implementation into national copyright law.

The Marrakesh Treaty (official name: Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled) improves access to knowledge for print-disabled people by giving organizations like libraries the right to reproduce printed works in accessible formats such as braille, audio, large print and digital formats, and to exchange these works across national borders.

In Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz Library and Information Consortium (KLIC), took the the lead in campaigning for accession to the Marrakesh Treaty.

As a result, on 9 March 2017, the President of Kyrgyzstan approved amendments to the Kyrgyz Copyright Act to implement provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty into national law.

On 15 May 2017, the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic deposited its instrument of accession to the Marrakesh Treaty at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Treaty entered into force in the Kyrgyz Republic on 15 August 2017.

On 24 April 2018, the first international transfer of accessible format books to beneficiaries in Kyrgyzstan took place during a National Seminar on the Marrakesh Treaty. The transfer was facilitated by EIFL.

The law for accession to the Treaty and changes to national copyright law are great achievements for the library community, the local blind community, policy-makers and elected representatives who worked closely together. Now the focus is on raising awareness of the new opportunities for increasing access to reading materials for people in Kyrgyzstan with print disabilities, and in providing practical advice on the operation of the Marrakesh Treaty in Kyrgyzstan.

Background

There are over 13,000 people with visual impairment in Kyrgyzstan, many of whom are unemployed. A major contributing factor to unemployment and lack of social integration among blind and visually impaired people everywhere is extremely limited access to books and other learning materials in accessible formats such as braille, audio and large print, and digital formats.

The lack of accessible reading materials – known as the ‘book famine’ - is partly due to barriers created by copyright law, barriers that the Marrakesh Treaty seeks to remove.

Right to read - Right to knowledge

In December 2015 EIFL supported the Kyrgyz Library and Information Consortium (KLIC), EIFL’s partner library consortium in Kyrgyzstan, to initiate a seven month project entitled ‘Right to read, right to knowledge’.

The goal of the project was to kickstart a campaign for reform in copyright law to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens, including persons with disabilities, and to promote ideas about open education and free access to knowledge in the digital era. The project was managed by Sania Battalova, KLIC Vice President, who was at the time EIFL Country Coordinator in Kyrgyzstan, and funded by the Soros Foundation Kyrgyzstan.

Timeline

2014 - 2018

Main activities and achievements

  • 28-29 May 2015: EIFL supported Sania Battalova to give a presentation on the Marrakesh Treaty at a WIPO Regional Workshop on the Beijing and Marrakesh Treaties in Tbilisi, Georgia.
  • 16-18 September 2015: EIFL supported Sania Battalova to participate in a regional workshop on the Marrakesh Treaty organized by the Asian Blind Union in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

“KLIC is very grateful to EIFL for our work advocating together for the Marrakesh Treaty. We learnt about the importance of the Treaty for blind and visually impaired people in Kyrgyzstan so that people are strong and equal in their right to access information. Above all, participating in law-making procedures was a great professional experience.” -  Sania Battalova, Project Director, Right to Read - Right to Knowledge

  • 9 March 2017: the President of Kyrgyzstan approved amendments to the Kyrgyz Copyright Act to implement provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty into national law.
     
  • 27 March 2017: the President signed into law a bill for accession to the Marrakesh Treaty [read the accession announcement in English; in Russian]. 
     
  • 27 April 2017: video message by EIFL welcoming recent changes in Kyrgyzstan's copyright law at a panel discussion 'Open Education Resources and Copyright' hosted by the American University of Central Asia (AUCA).
     
  • 15 May 2017: Government of the Kyrgyz Republic deposited its instrument of accession to the Marrakesh Treaty at WIPO. The Treaty entered into force in the Kyrgyz Republic on 15 August 2017.
     
  • March 2018: EIFL publishes an overview of the key amendments for the benefit of libraries, educational institutions and persons with print disabilities, as well as new provisions relating to access to works created through public funds. Read the overview in English and Russian
     
  • 23-24 April 2018: EIFL participates in a National Seminar on the Marrakesh Treaty organized by WIPO, in cooperation with the State Service of Intellectual Property and Innovation (Kyrgyzpatent). During the seminar, the first international transfer of accessible format books took place facilitated by EIFL. Read the press release in English and in Russian.

Next steps

Now the focus is on providing practical advice on the operation of the Marrakesh Treaty so that libraries in Kyrgyzstan can make the most of the new opportunities to increase access to reading material for people in Kyrgyzstan with print disabilities.

FIND OUT MORE

Read more about how EIFL is supporting ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in partner countries and implementation of the Treaty into national law.

See the amendments to the Kyrgyz Copyright Act [in Russian]

Watch MP Bekeshev introducing the Marrakesh Treaty in Parliament on 4 February 2016 [in Russian]

Read EIFL’s letter of thanks to MP Bekeshev [in Russian and English].