Copyright law has built-in protections that recognize the civil rights of researchers and learners who need alternative formats to access information. That’s the conclusion of a new white paper, The Law and Accessible Texts: Reconciling Civil Rights and Copyrights, that explains how copyright law provides broad and clear rights to higher education institutions and their partners as they work to serve all learners equitably. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt about copyright have impeded this work for years, resulting in needless anxiety and duplication of effort. In reality the copyright law has never been more favorable to accessibility, with landmark court decisions, international agreements, new legislation, and agency action all laying the foundation for a new, large scale, collaborative approach to vindicating civil rights in higher education.
The paper was prepared by Brandon Butler, Director of Information Policy at the University of Virginia Library; Krista Cox, Director of Public Policy Initiatives at the Association of Research Libraries (ARL); and Prue Adler, recently retired Associate Executive Director at ARL, and was informed by a two-day convening of experts on copyright and disability law. It also builds on previous work documenting how fear of copyright liability has been a major impediment to the development of efficient, collaborative efforts to advance accessibility at colleges and universities. The paper was written and published as part of FRAME (Federated Repositories of Accessible Material for Education), an accessibility project funded with the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.