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!)


  1. So, basically: “We’re here to take rights away from people, what have you twits been smoking to suggest this crap?”

  2. The faster people realize that copyrights as a concept is completely at odds with fundamental rights and liberties (namely, private property rights), the better we can resist and fight back against these copyfascists.

    Of course, this would require the acceptance of the concept of private property rights. The Copyfight is filled with leftists and anti-private property socialists that make very unconvincing arguments against one kind of positive right (copyright) while vociferously support other kinds of positive rights.

    1. Cory regularly states his support for appropriate and ethical copyright. So who are you tilting at?

      1. Copyleftists like Cory and Larry Lessig who voice support for government-granted positive rights* at the expense of the private property rights of others.

        Copyright and all forms of “intellectual property” deserves nothing short of total abolition. But it is bit of a tough going when your fellow copyfighters cannot articulate a coherent and consistently ethical argument against it.

        @Middleclass: Exactly.

        * Positive rights are enforced with violence at the hands of the State.

  3. “…at odds with existing, longstanding and well-settled norms.” What a bunch of shameless goons. The proposed treaty restates and reinforces existing, longstanding and well-settled norms of fair use.

  4. When I originally read about this through another site, I thought “well, why can’t visually impaired people just go out and buy adapted versions of the books like everyone else?” Then I realized that publishers’ main motivation for putting a product on the market is to make money, and that is what determines what (if anything) they offer for sale. Either you’ll end up with access only to the titles that publishers think will sell the most copies, or publishers won’t bother at all and you’ll end up with people who want to legitimately buy a product that no one is selling. It’s the exact same thing we’ve seen before with software and movies: it’s easier to just pirate the product to be able to use it in the way you want/need to.

  5. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest lobby representing 3 million businesses…”

    Actually, probably not.


    “A day after Mother Jones exposed the US Chamber of Commerce’s inflated membership number, the Chamber quietly backed off the figure in its public statements. At a Washington press conference Wednesday morning unveiling the Chamber’s Campaign for Free Enterprise, Chamber officials repeatedly cited a membership of 300,000. That’s a tenth as many members as the Chamber claimed a day earlier…”

  6. “Cory regularly states his support for appropriate and ethical copyright. So who are you tilting at?”

    I think Aheram would agree that the type of argument which Doctorow puts forward is an example of an unconvincing leftist critique of copyright. In this sense, ‘appropriate’ essentially means ‘arbitrary,’ with no clear basis in fundamental rights. As Aheram points out, any form of copyright seeks to limit a person’s freedom to arrange their property (say, ink and paper) in certain patterns. Copyright is thus fundamentally at odds with private property rights. The only ethical form of copyright is that which does not exist.

  7. People with disabilities are all over this issue! Without access to electronic versions of documents (and captioning for videos, and relay services for conversations, etc.), they cannot get educated, get jobs, or otherwise participate equally. This is an issue of human rights. Visit the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (http://coataccess.org) to see what’s going on, and sign the petition.

    1. y, from http://www.nei.nih.gov/CanWeSee/

      it seems a bit high.

      in the usa the percentage of people with visual impairment that can be corrected with glasses is ~80% out of a total of 14m.

      so the mpaa is waging war on 3m ppl.

      I’d think if the 3m ppl make like the goldman’s bankers and stock up on assault rifles, they’d be ok. as long as they don’t turn auto-aim off.

      a link would be nice.

      otoh. perhaps it’s because we’re all super-sized lard buckets these days, as diabetes increases the probabilities.

  8. The MPAA and RIAA won’t be happy until we are not actually able to use their products in any way. Of course, they’ll still expect us to pay for the privilege of not having access to anything.

    BTW, is that an actual t-shirt design, and, if so, where can I buy one?

  9. As someone who had medical problems (MS) which rendered me functionally blind for a while in the nineties and are hanging over my head all of the time, I can attest that these people (and I use the term loosely,) like insurance companies, NGOs and governmental agencies are forever coming up with awful, non-functioning extremely expensive, underpowered pieces of crap, more disabled that the person, just to stay behind some mystical mythical line for functionality and stay ahead of the copyright police.

    The personal computer revolution has entirely passed them by.

  10. BP – (http://bit.ly/4DtVbl)from the comments letter “The U.S. Chamber fully supports the goal of facilitating access to copyrighted works for the blind and visually impaired, and our comments below aim to propose the most effective, efficient, and expeditious means by which to expand access and achieve this very important goal over the long term.” and regarding the member numbers, go here: http://www.uschamber.com/facts

  11. From what I’ve heard, just about the only major American business concern that isn’t opposed to it it Google.

  12. Disabled activists in Australia organised a letter-writing campaign when our nation was supporting this piece of crap. We’re no longer supporting it. Keep writing.

  13. 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,

    Not so, 3 million is there number and they refuse to release their membership lists. Statistical estimates put the number closer to 200,000.

    This was an issue very recently and the reasonable conclusion is that the US CoC was inflating it’s numbers to increase it’s influence in the healthcare and global warming debates.

  14. So the RIAA/MPAA etc are a bunch of low life bastards and scum, boinking animals and having sex with their own family members…. where’s the news?
    We already knew these things.

    Now if there was an article on how a person from the RIAA saved a drowning pigeon that WOULD be news, saying these bastards are just vile.. is well, old news, we ALL already know that.

    What WOULD be good news is if you start reporting on members of the MAFIAA getting fatally assaulted, heck I would pay for that news even though I am in Sweden and not in the US.

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