Stevie Wonder urges U.N. bring light to the blind

Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:40pm EDT
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By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - U.S. pop and soul music legend Stevie Wonder told diplomats from nearly 200 nations on Monday to stop squabbling over copyright and agree on a pact bringing "hope and light" to blind people around the globe.

And the singer-musician, himself sightless since just after birth, warned negotiators at the United Nations intellectual property and copyright agency WIPO that he would write a sad song about them if they didn't act on his appeal.

"We must declare a state of emergency and end the information deprivation that continues to keep the visually impaired in the dark," said Wonder, whose music has won dozens of top awards in his 50-year career.

He told delegates on the opening day of WIPO's annual assembly that they should agree on an action plan that would empower the blind and near-blind by side-stepping copyright rules and giving them access to books and learning.

And the star wrapped up his 10-minute appeal by singing to his own accompaniment famous lines from many of his best-loved songs, including "I Just Called to Say I Love You" and "Keep Our Love Alive."

His call was endorsed by the World Blind Union, which said that in developing countries less than one percent of published works were available in formats like Braille or audio. Even in rich countries, the total was less than 5 percent.


WIPO member states have for years been considering a deal that would overcome cross-border copyright rules and finance translation of books into Braille but has run up against strong differences among member states.   Continued...