2012. Vol.3, Special Issue, 1060-106 2
Published Online October 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.326159
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Accessible Copies of Copyright Work for Visually Impaired
Persons in India
Priya R. Pillai
Bombay Teachers’ Training College, Mumbai, India
Received July 2nd, 2012; revised A u gust 4th, 2012; accepted Aug u s t 1 9th, 2012
This article deals with copyright law in India and its impact on the education of millions of visually im-
paired persons in India. Due to lack of amendment in the copyright law print disabled in India was unable
to access the published copyrighted works. The organization dealing with visually impaired can provide
accessible materials to visually impaired persons without seeking copyright permission from the owners.
This landmark decision of Indian government will benefit all educational institutions who are dealing
with visually impaired students.
Keywords: Visually Impaired; Copyright; Print Disabled
In recent years the importance of copyright exception to the
visually handicapped and limitations to copyright to provide an
equal balance between the owners of the published work and
users of that protected work has received considerable impor-
Copyright protection has for a long time been accepted by
many people as something that is essential to promote the pub-
lic interest. Copyright protection provides incentive for creativ-
ity and, by enabling the creators to gain a return on their in-
vestment; the rights granted by copyright encourage and moti-
vate more creativity for the benefit of everyone.
Most print disabled in all over the world are there for chal-
lenged by the copyright law in search of information.
Rights are created by laws and these same laws must care-
fully define and limit those rights to provide an essential bal-
ance between the interests of right holder and users of protected
material as this balance is as much in the public interest as the
Government of India in a meeting on 13th June 2008 has rec-
ommended, “All educational institutions should be made barrier
free within a reasonable time frame of, say, two years for uni-
versities and three years for colleges and schools. They should
also have facilities to provide Braille books and talking books.
Sign language interpreter should also be provided in institutions
having hearing impaired students (UGC, 2008).”
WIPO has itself published a Study on Automated Rights
Management Systems and Copyright Limitations and Excep-
tions (Garnett, 2006), which studied exceptions for the benefit
of visually impaired people and exceptions applying to distance
education in particular. Sullivan, Consultant, copyright and
Government affairs in 2006 studied about provision of copy-
right issues in the International conventions and treaties along
with the need of exceptions of Copyright in the national laws
(Sullivan, 2006). Exceptions for the benefit of visually impaired
people were also covered in a joint WIPO and UNESCO
Working Group on Access by the Visually and Auditory Handi-
capped to Material Reproducing Works Protected by Copyright
WIPO held an information meeting on Digital Content for the
Visually Impaired in 2003 at which the International Publishers
Association as well as the World Blind Union and other dis-
ability interests and national representatives gave presentations
on copyright issues (WIPO, 2003).
A figure commonly quoted as the percentage of books pub-
lished that are currently available in alternative formats useable
by print disabled people is no more than about 5%. Publishers
and authors in general want visually impaired people to be able
to read what they publish and visually impaired people want the
barriers that prevent them reading this material removed.
However, it is also widely accepted that there is no simple or
single solution and that copyright is not the only relevant issue.
Libraries for the blind developed as charities in India started
its service by producing books and magazines on Braille. Their
seeking of copyright licenses to permit them to produce such
Braille books did not pose any particular risk to copyright
holders and publishers. But as they started taking their places as
libraries or learning centres for print disabled that rendered
library services and as technological developments enabled
them to make and circulate accessible books in various formats
to readers with print disabilities, it became difficult for them to
seek and obtain such licenses for a variety of reasons. Many
governments in other parts of the countries like USA, UK and
Australia therefore enacted statutory exceptions to their copy-
right laws to assist them. Such type of law or an amendment of
existing copyright Act 1957 was not enacted in India for the
educational benefit to print disabled till 2012.
According to Census 2001, the total population of India is
1,028,610,328. The total disabled population is 21,906,769, i.e.
2.1%. Out of this, visually disabled population is 10,634,881 i.e.
1.0% are visually challenged persons (Government of India,
Persons with disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of
rights and full participation) act 1995 (PWD Act) (PWD ACT,
1996) in India is giving stress on equal rights for all. Unlike
other Law of Disability (DDA, in UK and ADA in USA) Indian
Law is not a mandatory Law and it is not specifying what all
P. R. PILLAI
the educational institutions to follow. India is lacking National
Library policy. National Library Policy for disabled will help
the policy makers to open the doors of libraries to all the visu-
ally challenged in India. There are mandates in Constitution to
provide education to all. The National Policy of Education,
1986; Right to Education Bill 2005, Right to Information Act
2005 also just mention about disabled as part of general public.
There is a need to have proper amendment of these Laws as far
as inclusive education is concerned. As all of us know, library
is a part of education as far as the access to information is con-
In India various special schools were established for the visu-
ally challenged and Braille text books were made available to
these institutions free of cost by the government. The blind
receive the education free till they reach 12th standard. For
obtaining higher education in India, visually impaired persons
face the problem of availability of accessible reference books
related to their curriculum. The libraries of higher education are
not disabled friendly. The visually impaired students in India
feel neglected and isolated once they reach to higher education.
Some of the Indian Universities like Delhi University, Jawa-
harlal Nehru University, Hyderabad University, University of
Pune, Tata Institute of Social Science, recognized the plight of
disabled and started special library services for the visually
challenged. A few colleges like St. Xavier’s in Mumbai, Loyola
College in Chennai were also been in forefront in developing
special learning centres for VIPs. Many NGO in India are doing
excellent work in disseminating Information from 1960’s (NAB,
NFB, BPO) for the education of visually impaired.
The major problem these libraries face in providing informa-
tion in an accessible format was the COPY RIGHT LAW in
As Roos, J. W. (2007) mentioned rightly:
“In order to make an accessible copy of a work, a library for
the blind or any other producer of that accessible copy must
obtain a license from the copyright holder that permits it to do
so. Otherwise, however laudable the purpose of making an
accessible copy, the accessible copy is an infringing copy, that
is to say a copy that infringes on the copyright of the right
Copy Right Law in India
India has an estimated 70 million persons who cannot read
printed matter (for reasons of blindness and otherwise). These
persons have limited or no access to information which is
available to the public. Perversely, even material in the “public
domain”—such as that created by government—is often not
available in accessible formats.
Technology has made possible to convert the print into
Braille, or audio CDS. But there is a lack of awareness among
all the stak e holders as far as the ma terial t o be made accessibl e
to visually challenged in India. Very few colleges and universi-
ties in India are equipped with latest technologies in the disabil-
ity centre or in the academic libraries for the service of visually
challenged. These technologies themselves don’t help the dis-
abled in accessing information. For that purpose we need to
amend the copyright act. The publisher should allow the librar-
ian to use the electronic version of the document to freely ac-
cess for educational use. The proposed amendments to the In-
dian Copyright Act are yet to be tabled in Parliament.
Challenges in India
1) Indian Copy right Act 1957 does not contain any rules re-
garding converting any print, audio, to an accessible format for
the visually impaired.
2) Ordinary printed text is non-accessible: The blind can’t
access print. Many can access other formats like Braille. Today,
in this digital age, proper training in computer and assistive
technologies, help a blind to access the e- document just like
any normal sighted person.
3) Commercial Braille books and large print books are very
limited in India.
4) CDs and talking books in Daisy format are also less in In-
5) Electronic books in principle can be accessible with screen
readers. But many publishers are not providing access rights to
visually challenge d.
6) To find out the relevant copyright exception of each coun-
try (Copyright exemptions for the visually impaired or libraries
for the blind vary from country to country).
7) Lack of awareness is a major problem in India.
8) Lack of infrastructural, human resources and financial
crunches leads to no availability of assistive technology in the
academic libraries which will lead to non-productive human
beings as far as the life of visually impaired is concerned.
To solve this problem many NGOs voiced their concern to
Indian Government and pressed the need of amending Indian
copyright as per the UN convention of Copyright law. Blind
associations across India launched the campaign of “RIGHT to
READ” and try to awaken the awareness all the stakeholders
like publishers, librarians, visually challenged people, etc.
The National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH),
which is the apex level national organization in the field of
visual disability engaged in human resource development, ad-
ministered by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,
has taken full leadership on this front and is working together
with the Daisy Forum of India (DFI) and other non profit or-
ganizations serving the blind across the country to set up a sys-
tem for delivery of books in accessible formats to print im-
Copy Right Exception for Visually Impaired in India: Until,
recently in India any alternate format creation would have been
an infringement unless it was backed up by prior written per-
mission from the rights holder (Government of India, 2001).
Copyright, like other kinds of intellectual property rights, is
basically limited in time, scope as well as exercise. From earli-
est times in copyright history, it has been recognized that copy-
right does not continue indefinitely, does not apply to certain
categories of material and, in certain cases, is limited in its
exercise (Lung, 2004). Hence there is a need to have copyright
amendments in the exiting laws as and when required. Prior to
the inclusive of Section 52(1)(zb) that the owner of copyright in
a work had the exclusive right to adapt, make copies, commu-
nicate to the public etc. the work. Therefore, any conversion of
a book into accessible formats such as Braille, Daisy, audio
books, etc., for the benefit of persons with print disabilities
could be undertaken only by the owner of copyright or with the
permission of the owner of copyright. More often than not,
owners of copyright are unwilling or disinterested to either
undertake the conversion and sale of such accessible format
copies or permit such conversion, for reasons varying from lack
of profitability to limited target audience. Now these permis-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 1061
P. R. PILLAI
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
sions are not needed for non-profit conversion and distribution.
The Copyright Amendment Bill 2012 has introduced certain
provisions for the benefit of persons with disabilities and it has
been passed by both houses of parliament (by the Rajya Sabha
on 17th May 2012 and the Lok Sabha on 22nd May 2012). The
Amendment to Indian copyright Law (52(1)(zb) which creates a
new copyright exception for the benefit of persons with print
disabilities, including persons with visual impairment and dys-
lexia.) was passed in favour of visually impaired after a long
legal battle by the organizations in India who works for the
right of visually impaired. Persons with disabilities who cannot
access a work in their normal format and organizations can
suitably modify a work so as to make it accessible to meet the
specific needs of the person with disability. This means that a
standard printed book, for example may be converted to an
alternate format (not necessarily a special format) including
Braille, large font, text readable by screen reader, audio (be it
synthetic audio or human voice recording) without seeking the
permission of the rights holder.
The Copyright Amendment Bill, 2012 does away with the
necessity to seek the consent of the publishers for converting
their books into accessible formats. To this extent, the Bill pro-
vides that it would not be an infringement of copyright for any
person or any organization working for the benefit of the per-
sons with disabilities and on a non-profit basis to create acces-
sible format copies or distribute them to persons with disabili-
ties who cannot enjoy the work in their normal formats. This
provision is very wide and inclusive in its scope and has some
protection built in against unauthorized use by non-beneficiar-
ies of the exception. For instance, the books so provided in
accessible formats shall be for private or personal use, for edu-
cation or research only. Moreover, the persons or organizations
providing such services have the obligation to ensure that such
converted formats do not enter the mainstream business chan-
nels. While the new exception permits the recovery of the ex-
penses incurred in converting the books, they do not permit the
making of any profit under the exception. However, under a
new Section 31B, any person working for the benefit of the
persons with disabilities on a profit basis or for business can
undertake conversion and distribution after obtaining a license
from the Copyright Board in accordance with the procedure
laid down in that section.
Every person has the right to education. Disability is not in-
ability. As a librarian from an education institution, I hope this
landmark amendment in Indian Copyright law will definitely
help millions of visually impaired in India.
Government of India (2001). Census of India. URL (last checked 9
Garnett, N. (2006). Automated rights management systems and copy-
right limitations and exceptions.
Lung, G. (2004). Copyright exceptions for the visually impaired—
International perspective. 70th IFLA General Conference and Coun-
cil, Buenos Aires: World Intellectua l Property Organization (WI PO).
PWD ACT (1995). Persons with disabilities (equal opportunities, pro-
tection of rights and full participation) act 1995. URL (last checked 7
Roos, J. W. (2007). Libraries for the blind as accessible content pub-
lishers: Copyright and related issues. Library Trends, 55, 879-916.
Sullivan, J. (2006). Study on copyright limitations and exceptions for
the visually impaired. URL (last checked 12 July 2012).
WIPO (2003). WIPO information meeting on digital content for the
UGC (2008). Notice. D.O.No.F.6-1/2006 (CPP II).