Picture: Beautiful News South Africa

JOHANNESBURG - Visually impaired people in South Africa are being deprived access to millions of publications due to delays in approving the Copyright Amendment Bill, rights group Blind SA has said.

Data shows that blind people have access to only about five percent of all publications globally, and to alleviate this the Marrakesh Treaty was adopted in 2013 to facilitate access to published works by the visually impaired.

Nearly six years later, over 60 countries have ratified the treaty including nine African countries, but South Africa is not among them, noted Christo de Klerk, chairman of the Braille committee at Blind SA.

"Our government’s position on this matter is that the Copyright Amendment Bill first has to be signed before the Marrakesh Treaty can be ratified," De Klerk said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, this has been delayed for years because of a continuous bickering about the bill," he added.

Parliament recently approved the bill, but critics have urged President Cyril Ramaphosa not to sign it into law, arguing that it will not protect artists from rampant plagiarism of their work and will allow for the exploitative use of original content without payment.

De Klerk said these objections were driven by, at best, a genuine misunderstanding of the provisions of the bill, but, more likely, deliberate misinterpretation.

"Mr President, please do not prolong the book famine of your read-disabled citizens," he urged.

"Please do not withhold your signature because of the misinformation spread by those with financial motives based on corporate greed, such as film makers, recording companies and publishers."

"Far from taking the bread out of the mouths of authors, musicians, artists and actors, signing the bill would make sure they receive the bread they deserve, but currently often do not receive," he added.

African News Agency (ANA)