Copyright gives authors exclusive control over their works. In education, however, the balance between access to information and respect for copyright is a major challenge. It is essential that we guarantee equitable access to protected knowledge while preserving the rights of artists and authors. Against this backdrop we have conducted a study concluding that Senegalese legislation needs to be adapted to facilitate teaching and research.
The Senegalese Copyright and Related Rights Office (SODAV) defines copyright “as all the rights that national laws grant to authors over their works in the literary and artistic fields”. Copyright is governed by two fundamental principles: moral rights (inalienable and imprescriptible) and economic rights (limited in time).
The use of educational material protected by copyright raises a number of legal issues related to the ways in which it is used. There are various exceptions that allow the material to be used in education and ensure that it is used without risk. We know that learning and teaching are closely linked and teaching materials play an essential role in this process by contributing to the production of knowledge, the quality of teaching, and school performance (Mbodj, 2021; UNESCO, 2016; UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2017). Yet there are barriers limiting access to educational materials, raising questions about equity and the legal responsibilities associated with their use.
Developing countries therefore face a number of legal challenges, as they do not have all the conditions required to ensure that education workers are able to access and use teaching materials without exposing themselves to legal risks. In Europe and the United States, the legal framework provides for a degree of flexibility, such as the concept of the educational exception (Memorandum of Understanding on the Use and Reproduction of Books, Published Musical Works, Periodical Publications and Works of Visual Art for the Purposes of Illustrating Teaching and Research Activities, 2016) or the Fair Use Doctrine (Copyright Act of the United States), which authorises limited copying of copyright-protected works for educational and research purposes without the owner’s permission.
Our research fills a gap in data on teaching materials and the challenges associated with copyright in Senegal. It examines copyright legislation, identifies the educational material used, analyses the challenges faced by teaching staff in accessing copyright-protected material, and assesses the impact of these challenges on education in Senegal.
The research is based firstly on a review of the relevant literature, to examine the copyright legislation in Senegal and to understand the challenges associated with the use of protected teaching materials. Online questionnaires were then distributed to 267 teachers (elementary, middle/secondary and university levels) in Senegal’s 14 urban and rural regions. Focus groups were subsequently held with 14 teachers (7 elementary and 7 middle/secondary school teachers, 6 of whom have a disability) to explore their experiences with regard to access, strategies and challenges in using and understanding protected teaching materials.
What emerged is that Senegal’s copyright legislation (dating back to 1973 and 2008) needs to be adjusted in line with international standards on educational exceptions, particularly with regard to digital resources. The 2008 law includes certain exceptions, but these do not take into account the digital realities and current educational needs in terms of digital technology and access for people with disabilities.
The type of teaching materials used varies according to the educational level. Schools are often provided with printed teaching materials and resources, particularly at elementary and middle/secondary level in urban and rural areas. Printed materials protected by copyright, such as textbooks and teaching guides, are also used at these levels. The use of digital teaching materials is less widespread, with the exception of higher education teachers, who make greater use of them, although this varies in accordance with the open or protected nature of these resources. For teachers with disabilities, their teaching activities often depend on specialised equipment that is not always available or is obsolete.
The research also revealed that teachers find it difficult to access copyright-protected teaching materials, often avoiding their use or dissemination in various teaching activities. The high costs associated with protected material sometimes lead them to resort to practices that expose them to legal risks. Teachers with disabilities are particularly affected by these difficulties, and some resort to creative or adaptive strategies.
Teachers’ lack of awareness about copyright laws is the biggest challenge. Many say they have no knowledge of copyright laws and do not fully understand the legal constraints, having never received training on copyright. Teachers with disabilities face additional challenges owing to the inaccessibility of protected teaching materials.
The final recommendations emphasise the need to adjust the 2008 law to bring it in line with international commitments, while adopting an opportunity-driven and human-centred approach that facilitates access to knowledge, particularly for people with disabilities, while supporting the country’s development.
Mbodj, M. (2021). Apprentissage collaboratif : Analyse du discours écrit d’étudiants sénégalais partant des principes du Knowledge Building et de scripts flexibles dans deux situations éducatives soutenues par des plateformes numériques distinctes.
UNESCO. (2016). Education 2030 Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action. Initiative for the right to education. https://www.right-to-education.org/resource/education-2030-incheon-declaration-and-framework-action
UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre. (2017). Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. In UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Building the Future (p. 26‑30). UN. https://doi.org/10.18356/0d19e2fd-en
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