Release (fwd)

From: Mike Freeman (
Date: Fri Aug 02 1996 - 14:05:23 PDT


                                      NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
                                             1800 Johnson Street
                                         Baltimore, Maryland 21230
                                               (410) 659-9314

For more information contact:
James Gashel
Director of Governmental Affairs

                                    IMPORTANT NOTICE ON COPYRIGHT CHANGES

         On July 29, 1996, Senator John Chafee (Republican from Rhode
Island) presented an amendment on the Senate floor to make
permanent changes in the Copyright Act. In statements made to
support the amendment, Senator Chafee said that the legislation
was based on an agreement reached by the National Federation of
the Blind (NFB) and the Association of American Publishers (AAP).
In fact, except for the addition of a clause concerning computer
programs, agreed to in advance, the text of the Chafee amendment
is exactly the same as the NFB/AAP agreement. The agreement had
received broad support in Congress and from all agencies and
organizations affected.

         The copyright amendments passed the Senate by unanimous
consent on July 30 as part of a bill to appropriate funds for
operating the Congress and other agencies of the Legislative
Branch, including the Library of Congress. The bill was then
referred to a conference committee so that provisions which the
Senate had added or altered could be considered by members of the
House. Although the copyright amendments had not been included
in the House version, the conferees from the House readily
accepted them.

         When the legislation is signed by President Clinton, which
is expected, the changes in the copyright law resulting from the
Chafee amendment will go into effect immediately. This will mean
the following:

(1) The permission of publishers or copyright owners is now not
required if an authorized entity reproduces or distributes a
nondramatic literary work in a specialized format for the
exclusive use of blind persons or others with physical

(2) An "authorized entity" refers to a nonprofit organization or
governmental agency whose primary mission is to provide
specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive
reading or information access needs of blind or other persons
with disabilities.

(3) "Specialized formats" include Braille, audio, or digital
text exclusively for use by blind or other persons with

(4) "Blind or other persons with disabilities" means individuals
who are eligible for or can qualify to receive specialized
library services under existing definitions used by the National
Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the
Library of Congress and its network of cooperating libraries.
Permission is no longer required from the copyright holder if
reading matter is reproduced or distributed in a specialized
format exclusively to members of this population.

(5) Every work which is reproduced in a specialized format must
include a notice that further reproduction without permission of
the copyright holder is prohibited unless the reproduction is in
a specialized format. The notice must identify the copyright
owner and the date of the original publication.

(6) Two types of materials--standardized tests and certain
portions of computer programs--cannot be reproduced without
permission. The exact language of this exception says: "The
provisions of this section shall not apply to standardized,
secure, or norm-referenced tests and related testing material, or
to computer programs, except the portions thereof that are in
conventional human language (including descriptions of pictorial
works) and displayed to users in the ordinary course of using the
computer programs."

         The important, bottom-line result of the new legislation is
that the copyright permission process is now a thing of the past.
The procedures and delays involved in securing copyright
clearance are also now in the past. In the short run, this
should mean much faster service for readers. As for the future,
the Chafee amendment will very likely prove to be crucial as the
national information infrastructure evolves.

         According to Mr. Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National
Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the
Library of Congress, the changes in the copyright law made by the
Chafee amendment represent the most significant development in
making reading matter available to the blind since Congress
established the National Library Service program in the Library
of Congress in 1931. In a letter sent to Senator Chafee on
August 1, Mr. Cylke said: "I know I join Kenneth Jernigan,
President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, and
all others in the community in extending heartfelt appreciation."
As word of the Chafee amendment has begun to circulate, Mr.
Cylke's sentiments have been echoed by blind individuals and
officials of agencies that serve them.

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