Recent Changes in Copyright Law and Their Implications

The Marrakesh Treaty has resulted in changes to the disability categories used to determine eligibility for National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)-derived materials. The Library of Congress is developing procedures for implementing these changes. Additionally, the term “accessible formats” replaces “specialized formats.” The terms “eligible person” and “accessible formats” are now used in relation to the NIMAS provisions of IDEA. 

In 2018, the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (MTIA) was signed and implemented.  Amendments were made to section 121 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 121. In 2020, Congress consolidated the Appropriations Act and amended the 1931 Act to Provide Books for the Adult Blind (2 U.S.C. § 135a) to incorporate the definitions found in 17 U.S.C. § 121

Changes to the Definition of ‘Blind Persons or Other Persons with Print Disabilities’ 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines the term “blind or other persons with print disabilities” in 20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(23)(E)(i). The IDEA part B regulation at 34 C.F.R. § 300.172(e)(1)(i) incorporates the IDEA statutory definition. The term “blind persons or other persons with print disabilities” has been removed from the Copyright Act and replaced with the term “eligible person.” “‘Eligible person’ means an individual who, regardless of any other disability—

(A) is blind;
(B) has a visual impairment or perceptual or reading disability that cannot be improved to give visual function substantially equivalent to that of a person who has no such impairment or disability and so is unable to read printed works to substantially the same degree as a person without an impairment or disability; or
(C) is otherwise unable, through physical disability, to hold or manipulate a book or to focus or move the eyes to the extent that would be normally acceptable for reading.” 17 U.S.C. § 121(d)(3). 

Changes to the Definition of ‘Specialized Formats’ 

The term “specialized formats” is defined in the IDEA at 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(23)(E)(iii), and IDEA’s definition cross-references the Copyright Act. The IDEA Part B regulations at 34 C.F.R. § 300.172(e)(1)(iv) also incorporate this IDEA statutory definition. As a result of changes made to the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 121, the term “specialized formats” has also been removed and replaced with the term “accessible format.” “‘Accessible format’ means an alternative manner or form that gives an eligible person access to the work when the copy or phonorecord in the accessible format is used exclusively by the eligible person to permit him or her to have access as feasibly and comfortably as a person without such disability as described in paragraph (3).” 17 U.S.C. § 121(d)(1).