Removing Copyright Law Barriers to Information Accessibility

American Council of the Blind
Resolution 2013-11

WHEREAS, Title 17, United States Code, section 121, the so-called Chafee Amendment, allows certain authorized entities to reproduce nondramatic literary works in various specialized formats for people who are blind or who otherwise have so-called print disabilities without first needing to obtain permission from copyright owners; and

WHEREAS, the Chafee Amendment, though it has proven to be quite useful, is nevertheless limited, either by design or as interpreted by some, in ways that do not afford people with disabilities full and equal access to information of all kinds; and

WHEREAS, to advance the cause of knowledge and information accessibility, it is desirable to eliminate the alleged ambiguities in the Chafee Amendment concerning:

  • the criteria for determining eligibility to benefit from the Chafee Amendment based on the nature of one's disabling condition;
  • the number and kinds of governmental and non-profit organizations entitled to reproduce materials under the Chafee Amendment, and
  • the variety of format options, such as the array of digital text and digital audio formats not commonly offered when the Chafee Amendment was enacted, that qualify for Chafee protection today; and

WHEREAS, the Chafee Amendment neither allows dramatic literary works to be reproduced nor allows reproduction of materials into large print outside of the K-12 educational context; and

WHEREAS, the Chafee Amendment does not address the need to make copyrighted audiovisual works, such as motion pictures, educational multimedia, online video content available via social networking, etc., more accessible to people with disabilities through captioning or description; and

WHEREAS, still other provisions of current copyright law impose significant civil and criminal penalties on those who circumvent technological measures that protect copyright owners' property; and

WHEREAS, advocates for people who are blind or visually impaired, in common cause with advocates for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, have been forced to regularly entreat the Librarian of Congress for relief from these significant penalties which might otherwise be imposed on people with disabilities who simply want to get access to eBooks or audiovisual materials that they are lawfully entitled to use; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Congress is currently considering a variety of legislative proposals to reform U.S. intellectual property law.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the American Council of the Blind in convention assembled on the 11th day of July, 2013, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, that this organization work in coalition with the American Foundation for the Blind and, as appropriate, with other organizations representing people with disabilities, both to defend the full scope of existing information accessibility protections in current copyright law and to advocate, through appropriate legislative amendment, the full and fair use of literary, audiovisual, and any other copyrighted works by people with disabilities who may need to have such works adapted, with or without permission, to meet their unique reading, learning, or comprehension needs.


Marlaina Lieberg, Secretary