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Singapore – Copyright (Amendment) Act 2014 Provides Persons With Reading Disabilities Greater Access to Copyrighted Material.

27 April, 2015

Introduction


The Copyright (Amendment) Act 2014 (“CAA”) was passed by Parliament on 8 July 2014 to amend the Copyright Act (“Act”). The CAA seeks to:

 

  • fight online piracy by providing stronger measures to protect online content; and
  • facilitate access to copyrighted works for persons with reading disabilities.
 

The amendments to the Act to tackle online piracy became effective on 10 December 2014. As for the provisions to facilitate access to copyrighted works for persons with reading disabilities, sections 2 to 5, 12, and 19 of the CAA, along with the Copyright (Excluded Works) (Amendment) Order 2015, Copyright (Amendment) Regulations 2015, and Copyright Tribunals (Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 came into operation on 31 March 2015.


Background


With regard to the amendments made in relation to facilitating access to copyrighted works for persons with reading abilities, Singapore is committed to ensure that its intellectual property regime serves the needs of the visually impaired community in line with the Marrakesh Treaty and the amendments by the CAA are meant to afford persons with reading disabilities greater opportunities to access copyrighted works.


The objective of the Marrakesh Treaty, concluded under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”), is to provide access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.


Person With A Reading Disability


The new provisions introduced by the CAA will greatly benefit persons with
reading disabilities and such persons under the Act will include:

 

  • a blind person;
  • a person whose sight is severely impaired;
  • a person unable to hold or manipulate books or to focus or move his eyes; and
  • a person with a perceptual handicap.
 

More groups of persons will be allowed to make, distribute and/or make available an accessible format copy (“AFC”) of a copyrighted work.


Prior to the amendments, only two institutions that assist persons with reading disabilities, the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped and the Lighthouse School, could convert published copyrighted material into formats suitable for persons with reading disabilities without infringement. The new amendments allow more groups of persons to, without a licence from the rights holder, make an AFC, distribute an AFC, or make available an AFC in an electronic form of the copyrighted work.


This broader groups of persons include persons with reading disabilities and education institutions and institutions assisting them, such as SG Enable (an agency dedicated to enabling persons with disabilities) and the Society for the Physically Disabled (a society dedicated to help integrate people with disabilities into mainstream society).


Copyrighted Material Can Be Converted into Any Format


The amendments also expand on the range of formats that the copyrighted material can be converted into. Previously, those formats were limited to sound recordings, Braille (a tactile system of writing or printing involving embossed paper), large-print and photographic versions of the copyrighted material.


With the new amendments, there is no limit to the types of accessible formats that can assist persons with reading disabilities. This broadens the range of permissible formats to include formats such as electronic books and Digital Accessible Information System (“DAISY”) format, as well as any other breakthrough formats that technological advancements can offer.


Categories Of Copyright Material Available for Conversion Expanded


Presently, the Act only allows published literary and dramatic works to be converted into formats suitable for handicapped readers. This makes it impossible for audio books to be converted into accessible formats such as DAISY.


However, under the CAA, the categories of works that can be converted will be expanded to include artistic works, sound recordings and sound broadcasts. The new changes complement the increasing popularity of audio books and podcasts that are used by the visually impaired.


AFC Can Be Distributed, Imported, And Produced for Export


Before the CAA amendments, the Act only permitted the making of copies of copyrighted material but there is no provision that provides for cross-border exchange of such works. In contrast, under the new amendments, institutions assisting persons with reading disabilities and educational institutions are expressly permitted to reproduce, distribute, import, and produce for export AFCs of a copyrighted work.


By allowing the importation of such works, persons with reading disabilities will be afforded with greater access to works from overseas institutions. This will increase the range of selection of materials that are friendly to persons with reading disabilities.


Conclusion


The amendments to the Act will not only allow Singapore to meet its obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty, but also make it easier for institutions such as the such the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped and Lighthouse School to produce, procure and distribute AFCs of copyrighted materials which are friendly to those with reading disabilities. With greater access to copyrighted materials, the amendments will boost inclusivity for those with reading disabilities.

 

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For further information, please contact:

 

Chung Nian Lam, Partner, WongPartnership
chungnian.lam@wongpartnership.com


Jeffrey Lim, Partner, WongPartnership

jeffrey.lim@wongpartnership.com

 

WongPartnership Intellectual Property Practice Profile in Singapore

 

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