New site name

I have ‘rebranded’. The Hearing Librarian is, nearly, no more. I still use it as my Twitter handle, for now.

This change is because I want to focus less on my hearing (although it is still a big part of who I am). My law degree has given me a new focus and areas of professional interest. I also wish to expand my copyright and IP ‘remit’ to talk about issues beyond accessibility. However, this is and always will be close to my heart, and now is such a hot time to be talking accessibility issues in the context of universities, publishing, and scholarly communications. So there will be lots more coming up!

I look forward to sharing insights with you all in due course. I am almost three months into my law degree and loving nearly every minute!

Marrakesh Treaty – why are we waiting?

At the end of October I attended one of the quarterly meetings of LACA – the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance.  As usual it was a lively and interesting session. I feel fortunate indeed to work with so many knowledgeable folk from a plethora of backgrounds (a full list of members can be seen on the LACA webpages).

In the meetings we discuss copyright developments and issues at a national, EU, and international level. One issue that spans all three is the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty. [Disclaimer: the following represents my own views, not those of LACA]. It seems baffling on the face of it as to why our government has not taken concrete steps to ensure that this important treaty is transposed into our laws. But, at a time of uncertainly with Brexit (and anti-EU feeling from some of those in government), it is not so surprising that the UK is questioning EU competence re. ratifying the Marrakesh treaty on behalf of the member states. The EU certainly dragged its heels for long enough in the first place, having signed the treaty in 2014, but at a time when they’ve produced a reasonable Directive and Regulation, this additional delay is a huge pity. We risk comprising human rights in order that we do not ‘capitulate’ on sovereignty. One can only hope that the UK government sees sense and stops blocking EU ratification or, failing that, moves swiftly to implement the letter and the spirit of Marrakesh into national law.

My blog for for CILIP on the subject can be seen at:


The book famine: whilst 5-7% of books are published in accessible form in the UK, this figure drops to just 1% in less developed countries. Marrakesh aims to redress this balance (image: CC0 from



Catching up

When I started this blog, I thought I’d keep it strictly professional. However, personal life sometimes takes over, and one has to take a break in order to regain a little balance.

I have written several blog posts but not published them, so I will be bringing this site up to date with snippets of news from this year, ready for 2017.

It’s been one of those years with lots of change but with one constant – I am in the same role, at the same place, and enjoying what I do. Sometimes it feels like everything falls apart in order to come back together again, but if one thing stays in place then that can ground you, provide something of a lifeline. I have decided to go one step further and to develop my knowledge of copyright and other intellectual property rights by undertaking an LLM in Intellectual Property Law at the University of Edinburgh. I will be studying over 2.5 years – and I simply cannot wait! The course looks fascinating and perfectly suited for my background of law in industry. I’m looking forward to developing my knowledge of the practical aspects of IP law as well as getting stuck into the theoretical and underpinning concepts.

I guess one thing I’ve learned from this year which I’ll take ahead as I embark on my studies (after my last master’s whilst working full time, I said ‘never again’..!) is that there are always mountains ahead, but we can at least enjoy the view…

Mountains by Victor Filippov – CC0 from

ARLG conference – June

The Academic and Research Libraries Group had their annual conference on the 27th-29th June. Ben Watson and I presented on mainstreaming access to information, with a focus on universal design, copyright, RNIB BookShare, assistive technologies, and making ebooks accessible at source.

Ben is the Accessible Information Project Adviser at the University of Kent. He is a real force of nature, personable and persuasive. In short, a great co-presenter! He has been working closely with Alistair McNaught at Jisc in order to embed accessible practices at Kent, in particular with regards to learning and teaching, information sources and software.

It was a really fun session and we had a full room of people who had lots of questions and comments. The closing activity was particualrly effective, in which we asked participants to take a photograph of a page of text and uplaod it to the RoboBraille service for conversion to an MP3. The referendum has just taken place, so the page of text was a list of facts and figures on the EU! The winner was the first person to have the text being read aloud from their mobile device, and within a couple of minutes we had a room of people with a newly-minted alternative format – impressive or what?

A summary of our talk is available on the conference webpage and a link to our slides is embedded below.

ARLG 2016 presentation – How can I read that? Mainstreaming access to information to improve services to all

Is there copyright in subtitles?

This week somebody brought a Swedish case to my attention which has been rumbling on for three years; that of the site. Police raided the site in 2013 and seized the servers, and in May the operator was prosecuted. He is facing, potentially, a prison sentence. This case reminded me of that of a Norwegian student who was fined in 2012 for running a subtitle site. Again the prosecutors had demanded a prison sentence.

I was struck by this as these sites, as well as being popular for translation/language purposes, are also used by deaf and hard of hearing folk. I have never used them myself but I know first-hand how frustrating it is to look forward to watching something, only to insert the DVD and find that it’s inaccessible…

Whilst both cases make much of the translation aspect, due to region locking and licensing issues (it is probable that the subtitles were made from or being used in conjunction with illicit content),  I was interested two things. Firstly: is there copyright in subtitles, and secondly: would use of these sites be infringing under the new disability exception in UK copyright law (section 31 CDPA 1988)?

Does creating a subtitle track to a film constitute copyright infringement? Yes, it’s likely to do so as film scripts are protected. Transcribing the dialogue of a film will probably result in copying a substantial part of a film script.

However, an alternative interpretation would be that subtitling uses independent skill and effort to come up with a new original work – which in itself might attract copyright protection…

Can subtitle files be used under the new  exception in UK copyright law? The exception has been widened now to include all material formats protected by copyright, including films (previously only literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works were included) and now all disabilities that prevent access to a work are included, not just visual impairment. So if the subtitles are created or used to help a person with a disability to access that work then this is likely to be covered under the exception.



As ever, all views are my own, but thanks to Teresa Hackett for alerting me to the Undertexter case, and Charles Oppenheim for mulling it over with me.


lis-accessibility is live!

Fireworks, by Chris Moran, is available under a CC BY 2.0 licence

Changes to copyright law in June 2014 mean that, subject to a couple of caveats, educational establishments can share intermediate files with each other, and use these for the benefit of disabled users. Load2Learn is a repository and request service that provides accessible textbooks to disabled learners; it has enormous potential for the sharing of files in a legally compliant way, which will save everybody time, and encourage publishers to provide accessible material.

In tandem with this we have upcoming changes to Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) meaning that it is more crucial than ever that accessibility is built into our processes and services.

The time is ripe for the Higher Education sector to collaborate and come up with a process for the provision of accessible format material to our disabled users. Having a consistent process would send out a strong message to content providers that accessibility needs to be a core part of their offering.

Join lis-accessibility today and help determine a new process for the sector regarding alternative format provision.

Accessible format provision: a national solution?

The provision of accessible format material is something of a niche area. To understand a typical workflow one needs awareness of:

  • copyright law
  • licensing
  • the publishing process
  • usability requirements
  • technical solutions
  • digitisation.

There are some excellent forums where some of these issues are currently discussed, such as Dis-Forum and Lis-Copyseek. However there is no forum at present where disability practitioners, librarians, learning technologists and copyright experts can discuss the whole process. To this end I have set up a new mailing list called Lis-Accessibility.

I am working with some colleagues at Leeds Beckett, Kent, Jisc, and Load2Learn to identify areas of best practice and how changes to copyright law mean that we can better support our users. It’s a very exciting time so watch this space for more information.

Chester, my hearing dog, doing a large and cheesy grin
Chester (my hearing dog) is grinning as he’s very excited, too.