The Right to Read in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan law on Marrakesh Treaty - a major step in improving access to knowledge for people with print disabilities

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Conference 'Copyright in the Digital Age’ (Bishkek 2016): from left, Nurjamal Ilyasova, Kyrgyzpatent, Aisulu Chubarova, ARTE Law Firm, Teresa Hackett, EIFL-IP Manager, a conference participant, and copyright expert Jonathan Band.

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 27 March 2017, the President signed into law a bill for accession to the Marrakesh Treaty [read the accession announcement in English; in Russian]. 

Because the Treaty’s provisions have been implemented into national copyright law, when Kyrgyzstan deposits its instrument of accession at WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization), libraries in Kyrgyzstan can immediately start to provide accessible format copies and to exchange materials with libraries in other countries that have ratified the Treaty. 

The law for accession 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, and a significant step in increasing access to reading materials for people in Kyrgyzstan with print disabilities.

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

December 2014 - December 2017

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

Next steps

The next immediate step is for the government of Kyrgyzstan to deposit its instrument of accession at WIPO. 

EIFL will support translation of the copyright law amendments into English, and the development of a policy guide covering the practical aspects of the new amendments to encourage libraries in Kyrgyzstan to make use of the new law.

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].