The right to read

EIFL supports the Marrakesh Treaty and its implementation into national copyright law

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Room of WIPO delegates clap as they adopt the Marrakesh Treaty.
WIPO Delegates Adopt the Marrakesh Treaty © WIPO 2013. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod


The goal of the Marrakesh Treaty is to help end the book famine, the fact that only about 7% of published works are made available globally in accessible formats, such as Braille, audio and large print, and digital formats. In the developing world, where 90% of blind and visually impaired people live, the figure is less than 1%. This problem is partly due to barriers created by copyright law, barriers that the treaty seeks to remove.

Libraries are key to the success of the treaty because libraries in every country have a long history serving people with print disabilities, and are one of the primary sources of accessible reading material for education, work and leisure purposes. In addition, blind people's organizations, libraries and other such entities can send accessible format copies to other countries. The treaty provides libraries with an opportunity to vastly improve services to people with print disabilities, thus improving lives and increasing life-chances.

For this reason, EIFL supported negotiations over five years at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and participated in the Diplomatic Conference that led to the adoption in 2013 of the Marrakesh Treaty for the benefit of persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.

The Marrakesh Treaty creates an international legal framework that allows the making of accessible format copies, and the sharing of accessible materials across national borders. It does this in two main ways: by requiring countries which ratify the treaty to have an exception in domestic copyright law for the benefit of print disabled people, and by making it legal to send and receive accessible versions of books and other printed works from one country to another.

The treaty was open to WIPO member states for signature, indicating a political intention to support the treaty, for one year. It is encouraging that 80 countries signed within the year, including 22 EIFL partner countries.

The treaty entered into force on 30th September 2016 after it was ratified (given formal national approval) by the required 20 countries. On 24th June 2014, India was the first country to ratify the Marrrakesh Treaty. On 30th June 2016, Canada became the twentieth country to accede. Now the treaty is legally binding on those countries that have ratified.

Once ratified, the final stage (where required) is implementation of the treaty’s provisions into national copyright law.


The Marrakesh Treaty entered into force on 30th September 2016 following its ratification by 20 countries.

To complete the work at WIPO, and to fulfill the promise of the right to read for blind, visually impaired and other print disabled people, EIFL is supporting ratification of the treaty in partner countries, and its implementation into national copyright law.


  • We support projects and advocacy in EIFL partner countries including Belarus, Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Kyrgyzstan, Senegal, Nepal, Lesotho, Lithuania, Moldova, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
  • We provide practical information on the Marrakesh Treaty to assist librarians and policy-makers.


2014 - 2018.


  • Zimbabwe adopts on 23rd January 2018 a motion in the National Assembly to approve ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty. Read more.
  • EIFL responds to Irish Marrakesh consultation. On 18th January 2018, EIFL responded to a public consultation on transposition of EU Directive 2017/1564 implementing the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities. Read EIFL's response here.
  • Moldova approves law on 12th January 2018 to adopt the Marrakesh Treaty. In April 2016, EIFL's Copyright Coordinator in Moldova gave a strong presentation on the role of libraries in implementing the treaty at an event organized by the State Agency on Intellectual Property (AGEPI). In November 2016, EIFL held further discussions with AGEPI in Chisinau. Read more.
  • Malawi: 'Embrace the spirit of Marrakesh'. On 4th August 2017, EIFL and leading library organizations issue a statement calling on Malawi to drop a legal requirement to check if a work is commercially available before an accessible format copy can be made. Read the statement.
  • Kyrgyzstan: 'Right to read - Right to Knowledge'. On 15 May 2017, Kyrgyzstan became the first country in central Asia to accede to the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities. Read about EIFL's work in Kyrgyzstan in support of the Marrakesh Treaty.
  • EIFL responds to European Commission proposals to implement the Marrakesh Treaty. While EIFL broadly welcomes European Commission proposals published in September 2016 to implement the Marrakesh Treaty, EIFL opposes extra record-keeping requirements for accessible works sent outside the EU. Read EIFL's comments here.
  • The Marrakesh Treaty enters into force. On 30 September 2016, the Marrakesh Treaty entered into force. From now on, in all countries that are party to the treaty, accessible format copies such as Braille, audio, digital and large print can be made on-demand and shared across borders, enabling institutions such as libraries to serve all their users equally - same book, same day. Read our blog 'The Miracle of Marrakesh - a day of celebration'.
  • Mongolia ratifies the Marrakesh Treaty. On 23 September 2015, Mongolia became the 10th country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty following an advocacy campaign led by Mongolian Libraries Consortium. Awareness of the benefits of the treaty was raised among the library and blindness communities, key documents such as the treaty itself were translated into Mongolian, policy-makers and parliamentarians were consulted throughout the process. Mongolia's ratification marked the half way point towards entry into force of the Marrakesh Treaty. Read more.
  • Librarians campaign in Senegal. EIFL partner, the Consortium des Bibliothèques de l’Enseignement Supérieur du Sénégal (COBESS), leads a campaign for ratification in partnership with Amitiés des Aveugles du Sénégal (AAS), and Sightsavers West African Regional Office. There have been information meetings with copyright policy-makers and parliamentarians, awareness raising activities, and presentations at high level events. While advocacy efforts continue, the EIFL Copyright Librarian in Senegal has become a regional expert on Marrakesh. Read more here and here.
  • A Right to Read campaign established in Nepal. In September 2015, EIFL co-organized the first seminar in Nepal dedicated to library copyright issues. As a result, participants from the disability and library communities decided to form a 'Right to Read' campaign to encourage ratification of the treaty in Nepal. Since then EIFL has supported translation of the Marrakesh Treaty and other key documents into Nepali, and the printing of Braille versions; EIFL and the Nepal Library and Information Consortium (NeLIC) submitted recommendations to the Nepal Copyright Registrar's Office on national implementation, and follow up meetings have taken place. Read more.
  • Action plan in Lesotho. In September 2017, delegates to a high-level national seminar organized by EIFL, LELICO and the Registrar General’s Office, drafted a national action plan for accession to and implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty in Lesotho. The seminar,  ‘Ending the book famine in Africa: libraries and the promise of the Marrakesh Treaty’, was co-funded by UNESCO (the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization) and attended by Ministers and Members of Parliament in Lesotho, inter-governmental organizations, copyright experts, teachers, librarians, and representatives of people living with disability. EIFL is providing recommendations on best practices, and further assistance as needed. Read more about the seminar here.
  • Kickstarting talks in Lithuania. EIFL was an organizing partner, with the Lithuanian Library for the Blind, for a conference ‘Libraries for an inclusive society’ in October 2016. The high level conference was the first library-organized event in an EU member state to focus on the Marrakesh Treaty. It offered an opportunity to debate ratification by the European Union, that had yet to ratify the treaty. Read more.
  • Librarians from Ghana and Uganda participate in Right to Read campaigns. In Ghana and Uganda, EIFL copyright librarians are participating in national Right to Read campaigns, in cooperation with the World Blind Union (WBU). Read about EIFL involvement in Ghana and WBU ratification campaigns.
  • EIFL Marrakesh guide for libraries. 'The Marrakesh Treaty: an EIFL Guide for Libraries' is the only guide aimed at libraries and librarians. It provides a straightforward introduction to the treaty and its key provisions, and concrete recommendations for implementation in order to maximize accessible reading materials available through libraries. The guide is available in English, French, Serbian, Spanish, Russian, LithuanianNepali and Arabic.
  • Practical guide to the Marrakesh Treaty. In August 2018 EIFL co-launched ‘Getting Started. Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities. A practical guide for librarians’, with Victoria Owen, University of Toronto Scarborough, editor of the guide. The practical guide is mainly aimed at librarians in countries that have joined the Marrakesh Treaty, and where national implementation is completed or advanced. It is available in English, French, Russian and Spanish.


Read testimonies from libraries in EIFL-partner countries on how a WIPO treaty for persons with print disabilities can really change lives.


Imagine being able to easily get accessible materials from other countries, that would be a dream. It would spur other students in Lesotho to study and lead fulfilled lives. It will assist the real efforts of the government of Lesotho to promote the participation of people with disability in society.
Nkhasi Sefuthi, Human Rights and Advocacy Officer, Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD)