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  • Writer's pictureIPTT Team

Books For The Blind: Is It ‘Translation’, ‘Reproduction’, Or ‘Adoption’ Of Original Work?

Updated: May 6, 2020

“There should be no limits for the blind”

- Helen Keller

There are different kinds of people on Earth since time immemorial. Some are absolutely fit, and some are physically handicapped. Some may not have hearing ability while other may not have eyesight. With passage of time, there have been invention of various systems to make the ‘different’ ones feel they are no less that other. Just like that, for those who are blind or visually impaired, in the nineteenth century, Louis Braille invented a technique for the blind to read and write and gather knowledge of the world. The technique is known as “Braille”.

Braille is a form of reading and writing system specially made for the people who are blind or visually impaired and are unable to access various printing materials for reading purpose. It uses raised dots which represents each alphabet. There are also specific symbols to represent punctuation, mathematics, computer notions, music, scientific formulas and foreign languages. It is a universally accepted code for the blind and visually impaired for every language. [1]

One of the main concerns in today’s world is what will be the nature of the work which is converted into Braille i.e. whether it will be a translation, or an adaptation or a reproduction of the original work. And if it is so, what are the rights that the owner of the original work holds. Translation is commonly understood as a conversion of a work from one language to another. But since Braille is not a language as such, there can be no ‘translation’ of it. There can only be ‘transliteration’ of the work. [2] For example, to qualify as a translation from Hindi to English of the phrase ‘aap kya kar rahe ho?’, it should be ‘What are you doing?’ But in Braille, it is not the thing. The exact work is taken up and converted into six-dot writing system. Hence, if there is any unauthorised conversion of any work into Braille, there is no copyright infringement under Section 14(a) (v). [3]

Now the point is whether it is the ‘adaptation’ under Section 2(a) (v) [4] or ‘reproduction’ under Section 14(a) (i) [5] of the work? Under the said section of adaptation, it states that adaptation on related to any work means rearrangement or alteration of the particular work. But there is a lot of ambiguity relating to the interpretation of the section. If Braille is taken as ‘rearrangement or alteration’ of any original work, the output will be termed as adaption and thus, the exclusive right of using the work remains with the original author. In that case, if any unauthorised copying happens, the person will be liable for infringing the rights of the user. [6] The only left option is reproduction of the work. Though this can be termed as the truest from, the difficulty is not settled easily. In reproducing an original work, whether one should remain true to the content or true to the expression, or both, is debatable. If the conversion happens keeping in mind the content and not the expression, there will be copying of the exact content and not the expression, into Braille but if reproduction means making copies without change, there will be no infringement of copyright. [7]

Now the question may arise what will be the solution? How can Braille conversion be made without infringing the rights of author of the original work? The answer lies in Section 52(1) (zb) [8]. It uses the expression of ‘accessible format’. It states that if any literary work is used to help person with disability for private or personal use, education or research purpose, it will not amount to infringement of copyright. Under Rule 77 [9], ‘accessible format’ includes Braille. It now allows the Braille version either to be adapted or reproduced. It throws clarity of inclusion of Braille under the term ‘reproduction’ and ‘adaptation’ under the said Act as well.

In conclusion, it can be mentioned that Braille is one of the important means of communication for the visually impaired people. It is the only thing they have to get connected with the outside world, to know about the great things happening all across the globe. If Braille would have been placed under the purview of copyright infringement, these people may not have ever learnt about the great literatures and would not have been able to express their feelings and ideas. There should be proper conversion of work for the blind in Braille so that they can also know it without the authors worrying about their protection of rights.


[3] The Copyright Act, 1957

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

[8] The Copyright Act, 1957

[9] The Copyright Rules, 2013

Prepared By:
Sukanya Mukherjee (B.A, LL.B (H), Semester-8, ALSK)
Saubhagya Tibrewal (B.A, LL.B (H), Semester- 2, ALSK)
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