RIAA, MPAA and US Chamber of Commerce declare war on blind and disabled people

Earlier this week, I told you about an open letter for writers in support of a treaty that would ensure that blind and disabled people all over the world would have legal protection when they converted books and other written matter to accessible format.

You'd think this would be a slam-dunk at the United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization. Who could oppose non-profit blind/disabled groups helping disabled people get access to written work?

Well, The US Chamber of Commerce, the MPAA and the RIAA, that's who. All three organizations have urged the US trade delegation to oppose the treaty, because they fear it might set a precedent that users have rights to copyrighted works.

But that prospect doesn't sit well with American business. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest lobby representing 3 million businesses, argues that the plan being proposed by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay, "raises a number of serious concerns," (.pdf) chief among them the specter that the treaty would spawn a rash of internet book piracy.

The treaty also creates a bad precedent by loosening copyright restrictions, instead of tightening them as every previous copyright treaty has done, said Brad Huther, a chamber director. Huther concluded in a Dec. 2 letter to the U.S. Copyright office that the international community "should not engage in pursuing a copyright-exemption based paradigm."

Echoing that concern, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry of America told the Copyright Office last month that such a treaty would "begin to dismantle the existing global treaty structure of copyright law, through the adoption of an international instrument at odds with existing, longstanding and well-settled norms."

Copyright Owners Fight Plan to Release E-Books for the Blind

Update: My wife reminds me of the accessibility research that says that 70% percent of us will experience vision disability in our lifetime. So even if you're not blind or disabled, this probably directly affects you, too. (Thanks, Freddie!)