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Africa: states acknowledge the need for better copyright laws for education and research

Education International affiliates have successfully advocated for a better copyright framework for education during a recent seminar in Nairobi.

The second seminar in a series of regional workshops organised by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) took place in Nairobi on 12-13 June. Education International (EI) participated together with its affiliates SADTU (South Africa), KNUT (Kenya), UTAG (Ghana), SAES (Senegal), and UASU (Kenya). In preparation of the event EI published an infographic in English and French that shows how copyright law affects 10 educational activities in 10 countries in Africa.

A balanced copyright system to promote education and research

Participants in the seminar shared the view that copyright exceptions and limitations for education and research in Africa are often inadequate and not ready for the digital age. Currently, many African countries have the most restrictive and expensive copyright laws in place. Governments said that  national copyright frameworks should be reviewed in order to ensure a proper balance in the copyright system that better supports public interest activities such as education and research as well as the work of libraries, archives and museums. 

Modern education needs international solutions 

Another conclusion of the seminar was that there is a need to address the use of works for teaching, learning, and research across borders, given the absence of an adequate copyright framework that facilitates the work of teachers, education support personnel and researchers when they collaborate with colleagues in other countries. Some delegates suggested that a new supranational legal framework was required. This is in line with EI’s demands at WIPO to advance an international instrument for copyright exceptions and limitations for education and research. 

There was widespread recognition that WIPO can and should play an important role in guiding and assisting member states in addressing urgently needed reforms. 

Challenges and solutions

Together with representatives from COMMUNIA, the International Federation of Library Associations, EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries), the International Council on Archives and the International Council on Museums, EI shared the challenges faced by teachers and researchers and offered a number of solutions that could improve the situation. 

Discussions however differed from the very open one during the previous Asia-Pacific seminar, with the Nairobi seminar posing a number of obstacles for education and research stakeholders to get a voice in the discussions, according to participant delegates from EI. Even though identifying “areas for action” is part of the Action Plan adopted by WIPO member states, the chairs did not encourage the working groups to discuss international actions and, in one of the working groups, the chair did not allow the participants to speak about solutions.  

In addition, the event was preceded by a Heads of Copyright Office meeting organised by WIPO to which only government officials and 18 stakeholders from the private sector were invited. Exceptions and limitations were side-lined and commercial actors were given centre stage to promote their preferred copyright system (e.g. licenses) for two days. Only one civil society organization was able to participate in said event.

Next steps

EI and a delegation of affiliates will also be attending the third regional seminar in the Dominican Republic, 4-5 July. As confirmed by the WIPO secretariat, the recommendations of each regional seminar will be reflected in the global conference in October in Geneva, Switzerland. This conference will then provide guidance to WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights on what actions will need to be taken at WIPO in the context of education, research, libraries, archives and museums.