New laws will open up access to books, films and music


newslatestMore disabled people will be able to make accessible copies of books, films and music, thanks to reforms to copyright law that came into force this week.

The new exemptions to copyright for those making accessible format versions of material for disabled people are among a range of reforms introduced by the government.

Exemptions to copyright previously allowed visually-impaired people, and their organisations, to make accessible versions of certain types of material, such as books, and allowed some organisations to produce sub-titled copies of broadcasts.

But the exemptions did not apply to people with other impairments, such as dyslexia, and only applied to certain types of copyrighted work.

Thanks to the reforms, exemptions will apply to anyone with an impairment that prevents them accessing copyrighted work.

The law will also allow individuals, educational institutions and charities to reproduce all types of copyright-protected content in accessible formats, as long as an accessible-format copy is not already commercially-available.

And the law has been simplified to make it easier for organisations to provide sub-titled copies of broadcasts.

Among the acts that are now legal are: making sub-titled films for deaf people; adding audio-description to television programmes for visually-impaired people; and making accessible copies of books for people with dyslexia.

David Buxton, chief executive of the British Deaf Association, said: “The British Deaf Association is in full favour of any development, whether technical or legal in nature, that enables Deaf people to increase their access to mainstream services.

“We are aware that many films and digital content currently available on the internet are not subtitled and, therefore, not fully accessible to the Deaf community.

“The British Deaf Association welcomes new copyright rules that enable organisations to add subtitles to products.”

In an impact assessment of the reforms, published in December 2012, the Intellectual Property Office suggested that broadening the copyright exceptions would have “significant social and cultural benefits for people who are unable to access copyright works due to their disability”.

It could also increase demand for accessible technology services such as captioning, audio description and subtitling.

The changes to the copyright exceptions have been made through statutory instruments that amend the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

4 June 2014