Web accessibility and technology protection measures: Harmonizing the rights of persons with cognitive disabilities and copyright protections on the web

Special issue: Internet use and disability

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) obligates State Parties to ensure full and equal access to the web for persons with disabilities. However, copyright law and policy sometimes poses challenges to realizing full and equal access to the web for persons with varying physical, mental, and cognitive disabilities. Recent developments in international law and policy that promote the use of technological protection measures (TPM) as a means for protecting copyrighted digital content on the web create barriers to accessibility for certain individuals with disabilities. This article uses theories of multilevel governance and social regulation to explore the relationship among laws and policies that aim to ensure web accessibility, and laws and policies to preserve and promote the use of TPM. It employs a case study of U.S. law and policy to examine how different levels of governance have ensured and supported the rights of persons with cognitive disabilities and web content publishers. This article argues that the Marrakesh Treaty acts as a bridge between the copyright and human rights regimes, can promote the meaningful participation of persons with an array of cognitive and other disabilities in the design and implementation of national and international copyright laws and policies, and thus fosters harmonization of TPM with the principles of web accessibility.

technology protection measures; web accessibility; disability rights; copyright; Marrakesh Treaty
Author biographies

G. Anthony Giannoumi

Anthony Giannoumis' research focuses on technology law and policy. He is currently researching the implementation of policies aimed at ensuring equal access to technology. His research interests include universal design, international governance, social regulation, and standardization, and he has also conducted research on assistive technology, and intellectual property.

He is currently an assistant professor of universal design at the Department of Computer Science at Oslo and Akershus University College, and an international research fellow at the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University.

Anthony has previously acted as a researcher with DISCIT - making persons with disabilities full citizens, and a legal and ethical advisor for Cloud4All - Cloud platforms lead to open and universal access for people with disabilities and for all. He was awarded aMarie Curie Fellowshipin 2011 as part of DREAM - Disability Rights Expanding Accessible Markets and has been a visiting researcher and guest lecturer throughout Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.

Molly Land

International law and human rights scholar Molly Land joined the UConn Law faculty in 2013. Drawing on her human rights expertise and background as an intellectual property litigator, Professor Land’s scholarship focuses on the effect of new technologies on human rights fact-finding, advocacy, and enforcement, as well as the role of human rights norms and framing strategies in organizing around human rights issues. Her current work explores the extent to which human rights law can provide a foundation for claims of access to the Internet as well as the opportunities and challenges for using new technologies to achieve human rights objectives.

Professor Land’s articles have been published in the Yale, Harvard, and Michigan journals of international law, among other places, and she speaks and lectures widely on the relationship between technology and human rights advocacy. She has also authored several human rights reports, including a report for the World Bank on the role of new technologies in promoting human rights. Prior to joining the UConn faculty, Professor Land was an associate professor of law at New York Law School, where she taught International Human Rights, Civil Procedure, International Intellectual Property, and other courses. Her teaching experience also includes serving as a visiting lecturer in law and Allard K. Lowenstein/Robert M. Cover Fellow in International Human Rights at Yale Law School. A former Fulbright Scholar at the University of Bonn, Professor Land earned her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Wondwossen Mulualem Beyene

Wondwossen Mulualem Beyene is a PhD Research Fellow working at the department of Computer Science, Universal Design of ICT research group. His research activity focuses on universal access of Information in the context of digital library environments. Beyene additional has an M.Sc in Health informatics and a Joint masters in Digital Library Learning (DILL).

Peter Blanck

Dr. Peter Blanck is University Professor at Syracuse University, which is the highest faculty rank granted to eight prior individuals in the history of the University. He is Chairman of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University.

Blanck holds appointments at the Syracuse University Colleges of Law, and Arts and Sciences, David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, School of Education, and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Prior to his appointment at Syracuse, Blanck was Kierscht Professor of Law and director of the Law, Health Policy, and Disability Center at the University of Iowa. Blanck is Honorary Professor, Centre for Disability Law & Policy, at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Blanck received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rochester, a Juris Doctorate from Stanford University, where he was President of the Stanford Law Review, and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Harvard University.


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