Geneva – Stevie Wonder started a sing along Monday at the opening of a meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization. The blind soul singer, who has sold tens of millions of albums, asked the 184 member UN agency for better copyright laws that respect the rights of artists, but would unlock copyrighted material the disabled need.

WIPO has been trying to update its global copyright framework for six years now, but countries including the United States and Europe have tabled proposals to provide broader access to copyrighted material to the disabled.

An updated legal framework would help deal with newer forms of media like audio books. Past law deals with rules for Braille, but now many visually impaired people depend on audio books, which face different copyright rules in different countries.

Under the current legal framework institutes for the blind in different countries may have to make multiple audiobook versions of the same work. Richard Owens, WIPO’s director of copyright and electronic commerce said that the added expense means some institutes can’t afford the books and others pass along the costs to the disabled.

Wonder promised a special concert next year if the nations could end their disagreement to benefit the 314 million visually impaired people in member nations. He also threatened to write a negative song about the roadblock if they couldn’t agree.

CCIA has been a long-time advocate of balanced copyright policy and has weighed in on various international agreements being negotiated by parties including WIPO.

We are happy that Nick Ashton-Hart, Consultant-Advisor to CCIA based in Geneva, was able to help organize the appearance of Stevie Wonder at the Assemblies as a part of his work for CCIA.

A transcript of the speech, as well as an audiovisual recording, may be found on WIPO’s website: http://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2010/article_0035.html

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