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New Copyright Rules and Revised Braille System

New Precedent-Setting Copyright Rules Promote Access!
and Revised Braille System Adopted in US!


The Librarian of Congress recently announced a decision of significant import for the future of information access rights. Endorsing a favorable recommendation by the Registrar of Copyrights concerning a petition filed jointly by the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Council of the Blind, the Librarian of Congress has determined that copyright protection measures built into ebooks and other electronic materials will no longer pose needless barriers to the materials' use by people who are blind or who otherwise have print disabilities.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), it is unlawful to circumvent digital rights management or related technological protections built into a work, such as an ebook, unless the Librarian of Congress has established an exemption allowing circumvention in certain contexts. The exemption that the Librarian of Congress has established now allows individuals with print disabilities, as well as public and nonprofit organizations with a primary mission to meet their information access needs, to avoid the DMCA's substantial penalties that would otherwise be imposed. The recently-adopted exemption ensures access to all:

"Literary works, distributed electronically, that are protected by technological measures which either prevent the enabling of read-aloud functionality or interfere with screen readers or other applications or assistive technologies, (i) when a copy of such a work is lawfully obtained by a blind or other person with a disability, as such a person is defined in 17 U.S.C. 121; provided, however, the rights owner is remunerated, as appropriate, for the price of the mainstream copy of the work as made available to the general public through customary channels; or (ii) when such work is a nondramatic literary work, lawfully obtained and used by an authorized entity pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 121."

This sweeping exemption represents a marked improvement over the original exemption first granted in 2003 but which the Copyright Office had abandoned altogether in recent years. By reinstating and expanding this exemption, it is now clear that both individuals and organizations may freely bypass copyright protection measures that get in the way of accessibility. By explicitly granting authorized entities (as defined by the so-called Chafee Amendment) to circumvent protection measures, and thereafter to widely distribute the content in specialized formats including electronic format, this exemption should prove very useful in the ongoing effort to achieve equality in information access.

The Librarian of Congress also granted a narrow exemption concerning audio visual works for the purpose of research and development in the fields of captioning and description. This limited exemption, while falling well short of the exemption proposed by the deafness and vision loss communities which would have broadened dissemination of third-party-produced captioned and described video content when rights owners fail to caption or describe their productions, will nevertheless help to facilitate the proliferation of new and creative means for the delivery of both captioning and description in the DVD and online video spaces. The full notice about the DMCA exemptions and all supporting materials can be found at:


BANA Adopts Unified English Braille (UEB) for United States

On November 2, 2012, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) set a new course for the future of braille in the United States (U.S.) when it adopted Unified English Braille (UEB). The motion, which passed decisively, specifies that UEB will eventually replace the current English Braille American Edition and that the U.S. will retain the Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation.

The transition to UEB will not be immediate and will follow a carefully crafted timeline. Implementation plans will be formulated with the input and participation of stakeholders from the consumer, education, rehabilitation, transcription, and production communities. Plans will take into consideration the various aspects of creating, teaching, learning, and using braille in a wide variety of settings. The plans will be designed to provide workable transitions for all involved in braille use and production and to minimize disruption for current braille readers.

UEB is based on the current literary braille code and was developed with input from many people, primarily braille readers, who worked to achieve an optimal balance among many key factors. Those factors include keeping the general-purpose literary code as its base, allowing the addition of new symbols, providing flexibility for change as print changes, reducing the complexity of rules, and allowing greater accuracy in back translation.

Letters and numbers will stay the same as they are in the current literary code. There will be some changes to punctuation, but most will remain the same. Some rules for the use of contractions will change. Nine contractions will be eliminated, and some contractions will be used more often. A FAQ providing more detail about changes is available on the BANA website.

After implementation, the official braille codes for the United States will be Unified English Braille; Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 Revision and published updates; Music Braille Code, 1997; and The IPA Braille Code, 2008.

More detailed information about UEB and the motion that BANA passed can be found on the BANA website at:
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