Thursday, March 28, 2013

Books for the Blind: Enabled Access Rights

Welcome back to Chiseled In Rock's continuing tour of John Q. Penman's (fictitious) publishing deal.

This is our final week in John's Subsidiary rights paragraph, and we've come to subparagraph (f), enabled access rights:

(f) "(Enabled) Access Rights," or "Rights to Enable Access," meaning the rights to publish, produce, and/or reproduce the Work in Braille, and in any other form or format, and on any devices which enable or facilitate access to the Work for persons who are blind, have significant vision impairments, and/or have physical or leaming disabilities (individually and collectively, "Enabled Access Formats"). Publisher may authorize and/or license the use of any edition(s) of the Work in all Enabled Access Formats without royalty or other fee to Author, provided that if Publisher receives any amount(s) in connection with exploitation of Enabled Access Rights and/or Enabled Access Formats, Author will eam a royalty equal to the percentage otherwise applicable to the use resulting in such receipts.

So ... what is the publisher getting here?

1. The right to produce Braille editions of the Work.

2. The right to produce special editions of the Work designed to facilitate access to the Work by people with physical and/or learning disabilities

3. The right to produce and distribute these special editions without paying royalties to the Author - unless the Publisher actually receives money in return for the special editions.

If the Publisher sells or receives money for the special editions of the Work, the Author receives royalties on those copies.

Some authors balk at point #3, but they shouldn't. Some publishers provide Braille editions of Works to libraries and/or schools for the disabled free of charge, as a public service. Others sublicense the right for special schools to translate works into Braille (or other enabled formats) without paying a fee for the privilege. This, too, is an important public service - and one I believe all authors should encourage.

The "Braille Market" is not so large that an author should begrudge the blind a few books. And remember: if the Publisher receives any money in return for the special editions, the author gets his or her share in royalties too.

Properly drafted, enabled access rights allow the publisher room to help facilitate disabled people's access to literary works - a goal well worth supporting, from my perspective.

Do you have experience with special editions of books like the ones discussed in this paragraph? Would you support your publisher's desire to help facilitate disabled people's access to your work?


Nathan Lowell said...

For nearly 15 years I worked with the National Center on Severe and Sensory Disabilities. These enabled access clauses are important to protect the author's right to collect any royalties that the publisher might garner.

It's worthy of note that any person with blindess or other visual impairment has a statutory right in Title 17 to make a copy of any work in a format that is accessible to them.

Title 17 section 121 (the Chaffee Amendment) says:

"(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement of copyright for an authorized entity to reproduce or to distribute copies or phonorecords of a previously published, nondramatic literary work if such copies or phonorecords are reproduced or distributed in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities."

The tricky bit here is that many of these specialized formats are actually quite accessible to persons without disabilities. The Daisy NISO formats for books enable a collection of specialized access modes including audio, cued audio, audio and text, natural voice, and text-to-speech formats. You don't need to be a person with a disability to access them but the number of people who abuse this is so small that it disappears in rounding error.

The definition of "low incidence disability" (blindness is one of them) is a condition that occurs in less than 1/4 of 1 percent of the population. It's a very small population with very great need. These enabled rights clauses help publishers do the right thing by publishing works in these critical formats.

It's also worthy of note that around the Center we used to refer to people with vision as "temporarily sighted." As I get older, I find that I'm gaining personal knowledge of this phenomenon. Knowing that - should things get sustantially worse - I will still be able to read is a great comfort.

Make sure your rights are protected, but please don't pull the plug on an otherwise acceptable contract because of this. It's not going to cost you anything, it might generate some small revenue, and it will mean the world to those people who are able to read your books.

Julie Luek said...

I spent years directing a center for disability services at a state college. We often reproduced books in a text-to-speech format for accessibility for students with disabilities, including visual impairments but also those with dyslexia or other print disabilities. Any book we reproduced we required the student to purchase to protect copyrights. Ironically, this meant we forced students to spend money on book completely inaccessible to them to appease copyright laws.

I keep hoping some day e-readers, and the appropriate rights, will make audio formats more accessible. What some folks have to do to enjoy the reading I take for granted is enormous. The cost of brailling a book is exorbitant.

Here's to getting our books out to all readers, and not so much concern for the small percentage of profits this may be costing the author.