Celebrating Fair Use

Fair Use logoThe Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States struck a blow for fair use on 10 June, 2014. A panel of three judges affirmed the ruling of District Court  Judge Harold Baer, Jr in Authors Guild of America, et al v. HathiTrust, agreeing that full text search and providing accessible format copies of works for print disabled persons were both fair use.

The Appeals Court vacated Judge Baer’s ruling on preservation, as Judge Baer did not consider whether the plaintiffs had standing to make the claim, and  remanded to the District Court for further consideration. Further, the Court held that the Authors Guild does not have standing to bring the claim on behalf of American authors, although certain foreign Authors collective rights management agencies do. Lastly, the court affirmed the decision that the Orphan Works Project (dealing with books that have uncertain copyright status, where the rights holder is indeterminate or cannot be located), which has been on hold since before the District Court opinion, was not ripe for adjudication at this time.

The HathiTrust Digital Library is a partnership of several academic and research institutions that, along with Google, have endeavored to digitize their collections. These digital collections will then be accessible for full text word search, displaying the number of times a word or phrase appears and on which pages, but not the actual text of the document. The collection will also provide full text accessible format books for print disabled persons. Lastly the collection was intended to provide a digital archive of the partner libraries’ collections.

The Appeals court decision came quietly, with little fanfare, with little to no mention in the mainstream media, all but ignored by everyone except stakeholders, technologists and lawyers. It has been primarily reported by blogs. Those of us who have been following the HathiTrust case since the District Court decision in 2012 (or since the inception of HathiTrust) were thrilled by this major victory in the fight for fair use, accessible cultural materials and access to knowledge.  Publishers and authors groups were less thrilled.

An interesting facet of this decision was that although the Second Circuit opinion affirms the finding of fair use, it disagreed with the District Court reasoning that creating books for persons with disabilities was a transformative use. Judge Baer, in his HathiTrust decision asserted that to him, providing books for persons with disabilities was a transformative purpose, as the publisher did not intend to enter the accessible book market. The Appeals Court likens accessible formats to translations of a work into another language, which creates a larger audience for the book, but is not transformative. However, whether a work is transformative is not the end of the fair use determination. They find fair use on a number of other grounds, including the Supreme Court Decision in Sony Corp of America v. Universal City Studios, the Chafee Amendment granting specific permission for the making of accessible format copies of books and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This decision also specifically addresses the accessibility of images and diagrams, which had not been authoritatively discussed before. The accessibility of images is of vital importance, particularly in education. The work of the DIAGRAM Center at Benetech, which is pioneering making images accessible for persons with disabilities, has been provided a valuable legal support in this opinion. The Court points out that the image files contained in the archive allow persons with disabilities the ability to manipulate the image to make it accessible (i.e. add contrast or enlarge), which they could not do with a text only file.

This decision, while quietly received, is terribly exciting, at least for those of us working on issues of accessibility of cultural materials. This is a substantial leap forward in sheer numbers of accessible format books. The HathiTrust Digital Library strikes a serious blow to the long standing book famine, where annually between 1-7% (depending on where in the world you are living) of all books published are translated in to formats accessible to persons with disabilities. It contains more than 10 million accessible volumes. That is something to celebrate.


DREAM Researchers Participate in Round-table Discussion on Human Rights and Disability

""DREAM researchers, Ieva Eskyte, Anthony Giannoumis and Magdi Birtha participated in a round-table discussion titled Human Rights and Disability: between choice and control at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas Lithuania on 21st October. The event aimed to facilitate  discussion and raise awareness on the importance of disability studies and disability rights.

The round-table addressed the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stating,

Since the key message of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) is that disabled people have to exercise all human rights and fundamental freedoms equally with non-disabled citizens, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss disability and human rights issues in different contexts. For instance, different models of disability will be discussed from Scandinavian, British and Lithuanian perspectives. In addition, the relation between accessibility, disability movement and private markets will be analysed. Special attention will be paid to disability research, ethics and methods.

Practitioners, scholars and graduate students from a variety of disciplines presented their professional and academic experiences in the field of disability and human rights.


The full program included,

  • Welcome &  Some Thoughts about Social Sensitivity, Reciprocity & Dialogue. Dean prof. Jonas Ruškus of Faculty of Social Sciences
  • Vytautas Magnus University, People with Disabilities and the Right to Reveal Potential. Ieva Danilevičienė, Vytautas Magnus University
  • The impact of family and friends social support on accepting mobility impairments. Laura Alčiauskaitė, dr. Liuda Šinkariova, Vytautas Magnus University
  • A comparative case study of e-accessibility policy implementation in the United Kingdom, Norway and the United States. G. Anthony Giannoumis, The Norwegian Social Research Institute
  • Information provision in the mainstream private market: business practices and disabled customers’ realities. Ieva Eskytė, University of Leeds, Centre for Disability Studies, UK
  • Participation of persons with disabilities in policy and decision-making processes. Magdi Birtha, Centre for Disability Law and Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway

DREAM would like to warmly thank the conveners at Vytautas Magnus University for the opportunity to work together in realizing the rights of persons with disabilities.

DREAM Launches Disability Rights Digital Bibliography

As a joint project between researchers at NUI Galway and DREAM, the Disability Rights Digital Bibliography seeks to provide a single point of contact for academic references in disability rights. The bibliography was compiled based on individual contributions from researchers in seven research institutions throughout Europe. The bibliographies were established based on the thematic interests of the researchers and represent a wide array of areas impacting disability in Europe and internationally. Each bibliography is available as an accessible Microsoft Word document as well as a Research Information Systems (RIS) format which can be imported into most reference management software applications.

  • All Bibliographies
  • e-Accessibility – Word / RIS
  • Disability Rights and the CRPD – Word / RIS
  • Disability Theory – Word / RIS
  • Indicators and Monitoring of Human Rights – Word / RIS
  • Legal Capacity – Word / RIS
  • Medicalization of Disability – Word / RIS
  • Methodology for Research Disability – Word / RIS
  • Non-Discrimination – Word / RIS
  • Treaty Interpretation – Word / RIS
  • Web Accessibility – Word / RIS

We want to encourage our users interested in contributing further to this initiative to contact Suzanne Doyle or Anthony Giannoumis

A permanent link to the bibliography can be found at NUI Galway.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered: WIPO Treaty for the Blind Sets Historic Precedent for Accessibility to Published Material

This article is a reprint of a story published at G3ict.

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled has officially been approved. A jubilant Abigail Rekas writes in from Marrakesh about this historic precedent that will now allow greater access to published material for persons with print disabilities.

The feeling here in Marrakesh is one of joyous relief. The tension and frustration over the last week at the WIPO Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities have melted in the hot Moroccan sun. Whether it was the heat or the words of Stevie Wonder, requesting that the delegates ‘Sign, Seal and Deliver’ a treaty to benefit blind and print disabled persons, delegates on both sides of the issue found flexibility and were able to compromise and deliver a consolidated draft text that was adopted by the Conference on June 27, 2013. It will be open for signature on June 28, 2013.

History has been made. This is the first international intellectual property treaty on user rights. Never before have exceptions and limitations to enable access been mandated. This treaty is a blending of Human Rights and Intellectual Property. It implements, for the very first time, the principle laid out in theInternational Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Article 15(a) and 15(b), that everyone has a right to access cultural materials. It is a first step to realizing United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 30 that intellectual property regimes should not be an unreasonable barrier to access to cultural materials.

Music icon Stevie Wonder urges UN forum to sign, seal, deliver treaty for visually impaired

Image: WIPO Director General Francis Gurry (left) and music legend Stevie Wonder in 2010. Photo: WIPO/Emmanuel Berrod

There were four concepts that almost prevented this treaty from coming into existence. The 3-Step Test, Commercial Availability, Digital Rights Management/Technical Protection Measures, and Translation were extremely tough knots to untangle. Thursday, June 27 these issues seemed almost insurmountable, and emotions were running high.

Fortunately the pressure to conclude a treaty forced flexibility from delegations and the facilitator appointed to address these issues was able to find compromise between the various positions. An excellent discussion of the resolution of these issues can be found at the webpage:http://infojustice.org/archives/30032.

This treaty is the culmination of the work of many passionate advocates, particularly of the World Blind Union, the Royal National Institute of the Blind andKnowledge Ecology International. They have been the face of the campaign for this treaty, and have spent years working with the delegations of various countries to create a text that actually enabled access to books rather than just paying lip service to the idea.

The Beijing Momentum coupled with what the representative of Group B called the Marrakesh Spirit (that of collaboration and cooperative attitude) and facilitated by the WIPO Secretariat has lead to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. It has not been an easy road. The Representative of the Government of Morocco commented that this treaty is the first of a new generation of treaties and collective efforts.

The Miracle in Marrakesh was greeted with a standing ovation. Stevie Wonder will perform. This treaty will change the lives of the blind, visually impaired and otherwise print disabled persons around the world as it is implemented. The focus must now shift to implementation of this treaty and the active sharing of books across borders.

Source: G3ict

Launch of the European collaborative portal on Assistive Technologies and inclusive solutions

ATIS4all logoThere is a growing concern throughout Europe about the difficulties faced by the organisations involved in the ICT Assistive Technology (AT) field. The ATIS4all collaborative portal is the result of an EU-funded project, which aims to benefit all the key actors in the chain value of ICT ATs and accessibility products (from research centres to the end-users). It is an open and collaborative portal that offers reliable information on ICT ATs, inclusive solutions and R&D initiatives, and fosters online discussion, exchange of knowledge, expertise and sharing of information among its different portal members. Continue reading

DREAM Early Stage Researchers presenting at NNDR Conference 2013

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Seven Early Stage Researchers from the DREAM network attended and presented at the Twelfth Nordic Network of Disability Research Conference in Turku, Finland 30-31 May 2013.

Keynote speakers at the conference included Eva Feder Kittay, Professor of Philosophy, Stony Brook University; Dan Goodley, Professor of Disability Studies and Education, University of Sheffield; Jan Grue, Postdoctoral Fellow in Linguistics, University of Oslo, Norway; and Kalle Könkkölä, Executive Director of the Threshold Association, Helsinki, Finland.

Over the two days, the ESRs presented abstracts and posters and got to meet various disability academics from around the world. The following is a list of each ESR and the title of their presentations:

  • Anna Arstein-Kerslake: An empowering dependency: Exploring the role of supported decision-maker.
  • Magdi Birtha: “Nothing about CRPD monitoring without us” – case study on the involvement of the disability movement in policy-making in Zambia.
  • Ciara Brennan: “Theorizing the economics of independent living: Commodification of human rights in Iceland in a Nordic context” with Rannveig Traustadóttir and “The CRPD, independent living and user-led personal assistance”.
  • Ieva Eskyte: Shopping Accessibility: between the ideal and the real.
  • Robert Huffaker: Legal Framework on eAccessibility: A legislation review.
  • Carly Toepke: Participation and inclusive education under the UNCRPD.
  • Betül Yalcin: Employer attitudes towards employment of disabled people: a comparative analysis in the European context.

Rune Halvorson, PI from NOVA, presented “New policies to promote youth inclusion in the labour market? Disability in the Nordic welfare states”.

Rannveig Traustadóttir, PI from the University of Iceland, presented “Implementing and monitoring the CRPD” and “Childhood disability, space, place and identity” and chaired the symposiums titled “Implementing the CRPD” and “Childhood and Disability”.

UN CRPD as a real engine of change – training experiences from Moldova

ImageThe DREAM project does not only train young research fellows to be the ‘future generation’ of disability rights academics, but goes beyond and guarantees the learning experience from excellent international stakeholders through a pulsing collaboration. Being involved in their important work may help us to become social entrepreneurs and take active part in the social change around the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). One of our associate partners is the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC), international and independent human rights NGO based in Budapest, Hungary. Since its foundation in 2002, MDAC is working in more than 15 countries across the world advocating the rights of persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. These people are told to be ‘the most marginalized among the most marginalized’ therefore it is essential to empower their organisations and address their current human rights situation. More information on the work and projects of MDAC is available at: www.mdac.info

I had my first professional and personal connection with inspiring staff of MDAC back in 2010 attending their summer school in Budapest. A real mind changing experience to spend two weeks with activists and advocates from all around the world discussing the possible interpretations of articles of the Convention. The ways of translating abstract legal text into practice and apply it in everyday advocacy work is very important indeed. As much as I like to be in academia and doing my PhD at the Centre for Disability Law and Policy NUI Galway, I somehow miss the ‘action on the ground’ when one can really feel the power of change.

I was delighted that MDAC asked me to join their trip to Chisinau, Moldova and to train government and civil society representatives on the implementation of Article 33 CRPD. This article is the most comprehensive ever, included in international human rights treaties. What makes it innovative is the obligation to set up a framework with one or more independent element to monitor the CRPD. Nevertheless it gives an exact role to government to serve as focal point and coordinate national law and policy-making in a CRPD compliant way. The third component of the triangular Article 33 framework is the involvement of civil society and in particular persons with disabilities whose active collaboration with the government and NHRI is rather unprecedented. We live in a fascinating time, when the mantra of the Convention ‘Nothing about us without us!’ is becoming reality and State Parties can either pioneer or fail in making the first effective steps towards a more inclusive society.

Moldova is a developing country in Eastern Europe, who ratified the Convention on 21 September 2010. Thus, all the provisions articulated in the CRPD are legally binding to the country. The training was organized by UNDP Moldova, and without their local knowledge it would have been a real challenge to understand local politics and get relevant participants around the table. The training was a great learning experience for us as well. It has been emphasized several times that there is no perfect solution yet where to catch up, there are different solutions chosen by State Parties, some of them are maybe more promising than others. We therefore offered to present some of these international examples and discuss what could be used in the Moldovan context. On the first day, Oliver Lewis (Executive director of MDAC) and myself had about 20 civil servants in the room representing various departments of the government (Ministry of Education, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Culture etc.). Their interest is definitely a good sign of commitment. The designated focal point under Article 33.1, the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family also attended the event. We aimed to help them to better understand the concept of the CRPD, for instance the paradigm shift, the change from the medical to the social/human rights model or the concept of civil society participation. It was important to overview how to read certain articles of the Convention with the eyes of law makers and thinking in a structured manner when organising policy-making in disability related areas. Successful implementation of the CRPD requires the change of attitudes and mindset towards people with disabilities therefore we tried to capacitate participants through group activities to think about social barriers instead of individual limitations when it comes to disability. Generally speaking, Moldova has a great Article 33.1 structure established with a Focal Point and Ministries who already worked together when they put together the State Report to the UN Committee last year.

Article 33.2 CRPD requires the National Human Rights Institution -which is the Ombudsman in the case of Moldova- and civil society to work together in monitoring the implementation of the Convention. The Convention has a good reason to ask for this collaboration. The NHRI can bring its experience in general human rights monitoring, and most importantly serve as the independent element in the mechanism. Independence shall be guaranteed by its mandate and articulated in the distance from the government. In fairness, the Moldavian Ombudsman has been classified by the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) as ‘B’ status human rights institution due to the fact it is relying on the government when it comes to approval of yearly budget. It raises concerns towards the independence of the Ombudsman Office. The Ombudsman and civil society could not agree on the ideal form of collaboration within the framework, therefore there is no monitoring happening in this sense. UNDP has proposed a framework of 15 members – 3 delegated by the Ombudsman Office and the rest representing civil society. This level of presence in the framework did not satisfy the Ombudsman who sort of stepped out from the framework. Civilian forces intend to do the work on their own, however they are lacking coordination and adequate sources to provide secretariat for the framework. We strongly emphasized at a work lunch and a private meeting we had with the Ombudsman and his colleagues the necessity of the Ombudsman’s presence in the framework. This is an absolute prerequisite to achieve compliance with the CRPD. Representation of civil society is a very challenging issue articulated in Article 4.3 and 33.3 CRPD both from the structural and the functional point of view. Persons with disabilities have always been marginalized therefore capacity-building is a must to make them aware of their rights and the most effective ways to participate in policy-and decision-making processes. Selecting the organizations, who can represent persons with disabilities at high-level discussions is not an easy task to do. And who is entitled to decide? Some voices can be left out just because those are smaller or younger DPOs than the well-known traditional disability NGOs. In Moldova, the Ombudsman prefers to work with the NGOs who consist the most member organizations, however we know that they often function on an old, soviet-type bureaucratic base. The second day of the training has brought about 30 self-advocates to Chisinau from different parts of the country. They wanted to hear about how to organize the work of monitoring, what are the rights, which can be monitored and how is it happening in other countries. One could feel such a strong buzz in the room while talking and sharing experiences with these very powerful advocates who want to make a real change.

Moldova certainly has to struggle with financial burdens due to its economic situation, however there are issues mainly in the area of civil and political rights, which do not require major investments, but rather commitment from the State Party to comply with its international human rights obligations. The willingness to collaborate with experts from the disability movement is really one of the key prerequisites to ensure the spirit of the Convention is becoming reality at the National level.

The author would like to thank MDAC for the opportunity to participate as a co-trainer in their event in Moldova 11-12 March 2013.


Active Citizenship and Fiscal Innovation

DREAM principle investigator Gerard Quinn reflects on the role of fiscal innovation in achieving active citizenship for persons with disabilities as a part of an EU funded project, DISCIT – Making Persons with Disabilites Full Citizens.

The video is closed captioned in English, and the transcipt is available for download in Word and PDF.

DREAM Panel – Disability Policy in Crisis – accepted to 20th International Conference of Europeanists

cover of conference brochureA panel submission by DREAM ESRs Stelios CharitakisG. Anthony Giannoumis, and Ieva Eskyte will be presented at the 20th International Conference of Europeanists 25 to 27 June 2013 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The panel titled “Disability Policy in Crisis – Legal, Public Policy and Practical Approaches” will be chaired by Dr. Mark Davis, and Dr. Thomas Campbell will be acting as the discussant.

The panel will be divided into three sections:

  • Austerity measures in Greece: Do they violate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? presented by Stelios Charitakis
  • Disability.eu – the impact of the crisis on the participation of persons with disabilities on the web presented by G. Anthony Giannoumis
  • Accessible Private Market for Disabled People? Crisis in Policy and Market Practices presented by Ieva Eskyte

Panel Summary: The austerity measures that have been adopted throughout Europe have put pressure to the beneficiaries of social welfare, most significantly minorities. As a minority group, disabled people are facing significant reductions or cuts to their benefits. Households with people with impairments are more vulnerable because they have lower than average household incomes. At the same time, a crucial shift on how disabled people are perceived has emerged from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This UN Treaty marked the shift from the medical model of disability that focused on the impairment of disabled people and was expressed through social welfare benefits, to the social model that promotes full participation and inclusion for people with disabilities through the removal of barriers to equal and active participation in society. States are not the only ones responsible for the implementation of this approach. The private sector in general can be and should be, according to the Convention, leading that cause. Furthermore, the Convention focuses particular attention on information and communication technology (ICT), because of the important role it plays in ensuring social inclusion and full participation in society for disabled people.

The first speaker will take a legal approach. They will examine the case of cutbacks in Greece and will identify the measures that have been taken to reduce the benefits for people with disabilities. The discussion will include whether these measures amount to a violation of the CRPD or whether they are justified, according to Human Rights law. Finally, whether these measures can be seen as an opportunity to change the medical model approach and focus more on the social model approach and what measures Greece have taken to that respect will be considered.

The second speaker will take a public policy approach. They will compare regulatory regimes in the United Kingdom, Norway and the United States, focusing particularly on the social regulation of ICT service providers. The discussion will include the impact of the economic crisis on policy implementation in terms of the choice of policy tools (legislative, incentive, or hortatory). Finally regulatory enforcement of web design will be discussed in terms of standard setting, monitoring, certification and compliance.

The third speaker will take a practice oriented approach. They will examine practical measures that need to be taken by governments in order to achieve a more accessible private market for disabled people. The discussion will cover the impact of economic crisis on disabled shoppers’ position and patterns in the market as well as on experiences of sellers and producers of ICT. The discussion will be framed in Habermas’ life world colonization theory and informed by the position of the EU through a discussion of pertinent policy documents.

DREAMing of 2012

WordPress.com prepared a 2012 annual report for our blog.

image of fireworks and skyline

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.