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for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Librarian of Congress ruling is victory for people who are blind or visually impaired

American Foundation for the Blind celebrates improved access to eBooks

November 4, 2003 (Washington)—The Librarian of Congress issued a ruling last week supporting the right of people who are blind or visually impaired to gain full access to electronic books (eBooks). The ruling provides an exemption to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act DMCA), making it legal to circumvent any encrypted or protected features that render the text inaccessible for the specialized computer technologies used by people who are blind or visually impaired to read electronic text.

"This ruling upholds the fundamental right to read for all people," said Carl Augusto, President of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). "The emerging electronic book technologies have the potential to make published information more accessible and usable to people who are blind or visually impaired. By removing barriers to utilizing eBooks, the Library ensured all people can continue to enjoy the benefits of progress."

This ruling is the result of a concerted advocacy effort by AFB to bring this issue to the attention of the Librarian of Congress. AFB originally requested the exemption in December 2002, and later provided testimony and evidence to show that approximately 50 percent of currently published eBooks are inaccessible for people who are blind and visually impaired.

"This is a major victory, but there is more work to do," continued Augusto. "AFB will continue to work with Congress, the Librarian and publishers to ensure future titles are fully accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired."

DMCA, which became U.S. law in 1998, makes it a felony to develop or use technology to get around security provisions of various classes of intellectual property including software, ebooks, DVD movies and audio, among others.

The Librarians ruling provides an exemption for: "Literary works distributed in eBook format when all existing eBook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling of the eBook's read-aloud function and the enabling of screen readers to render the text into a specialized format."

Additional information about the DMCA and on this ruling, including copies of all testimony, can be found on line at,


Carrie Fernandez
AFB Communications
212-502-7674 or

November 2003

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