Literary Works to Braille – Which Exclusive Right?
I write in response to Dr. Sunanda Bharti’s post on Spicy IP, which talks about rights granted to copyright owners of literary works, and which right is involved in converting a literary work to Braille. In my opinion, the answer is not so complex as it seems. Braille is not a language, it is a form of expression of a language. It has the same alphabets as the language and nothing changes except the way in which letters are represented. So, converting a work into Braille does not amount to translation or even transliteration.
By writing a literary work in Braille, one is making an exact copy of the work in a different form of expression, which can be perceived by a different sense. Therefore, by converting a work from one form to another, like printed text to Braille, one is not altering the contents of the work, but only its format of expression, which makes it a reproduction. Unlike issuing copies, reproduction has a much broader scope and covers identical content in different formats. For example, by converting a printed book into electronic form, I am reproducing the work, not translating it.
When one changes the medium of the original expression, certain alterations, modifications and re-arrangements are inevitable and therefore, the right of adaptation is also involved. By simply
converting a literary work from print to Braille, I am not only reproducing the work, but also adapting it. It may however be argued that adaptation does not really come into play when the work is not altered or changed, and that argument surely holds water in certain formats such as identical electronic copies and even Braile when alteration does not have any impact on the perception of the original work.
Based on its language, Section 52(1)(zb) has all the rights required to make works available in accessible formats. It exempts reproduction, adaptation, issuing copies, communicating to public and sharing for personal use and educational and research purposes. Organisations working for persons with disabilities may exercise the said rights in order to make accessible formats available under the exception. In the said context, most scholars do not see the need to discuss the scope of the rights as much as other aspects of the disability exception under Indian law.