Tuesday 17 December 2013

Afro Ng'ombe

Another Report from the Global Congress

This Little Leo could say that this report is coming several days after the Global Congress ended so that it didn't crowd all the great activity on the blog. But, the truth is she wanted to explore many of the wonderful things Cape Town has to offer, including realizing very late in her stay that she could probably get actual maize meal here – something that is not readily available in the US – and make herself a delicious meal of nsima. (We have corn meal, but it's different and doesn't work well for nsima.) We fed, she's now ready to report on one more important session from the 3rd Annual Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest. (Other reports here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. whew!)

Fellow Leo, Caroline Ncube, led a 2+ hour update on IP happenings from around the world. Over 20 people spoke, and Little Leo was very pleased to see Africa well represented on the podium. Rather than covering all 20 presentations, we'll look at the African updates.

North Africa

Riyadh Al Balushi from the Ministry of Legal Affairs in Oman covered copyright exceptions and limitations in the Arab world, which included several countries from North Africa. The North African countries seem to be a hotbed of unique exceptions. Of the 22 countries in the Arab world, two do not have copyright laws and those two are both in Africa, Somalia and Mauritania. Of the remaining African-Arab countries, only Tunisia does not have an exception allowing the media to reproduce public and political speeches without the author's permission. Most countries also allow the media to reproduce articles of political, religious or economic discussions in full as long the author did not explicitly say that article could not be copied for those purposes.

Algeria is one of a small number that allow publicly displayed art to be photographed without limiting parameters like incidental use. Riyadh pointed out that allow only a few countries have this exception, everyone takes pictures of public art anyway. Tunisia and Algeria are the only two countries to have an actual exception for parody, despite parody's popularity across the Arab region. Sudan is the only country that allows copying a photo of a famous person or politician without permission.


Moving to Sub-Saharan Africa, Adebambo Adewapo, former Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission and currently at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, gave an update on user rights in Nigeria. This Little Leo was fascinated with his updated because she is very used to hearing “user rights” talked about in the sense of strictly “end users.” Adebambo however, discussed broadcasters, media houses and other users who need access to copyrighted material. Nigeria has specific copyright exceptions outlined in its Copyright Act, similar to fair dealing in the UK. There's not a lot of case law on this topic, though. The real debate in current Nigerian copyright law is in the area of recasting former obligations as rights. The users about which Adebambo was speaking are arguing that they have a right to negotiations with the copyright owners for use of material.


Agatha Kabugu, librarian at University of Nairobi, gave a wonderful update on library's role in creating access to resources. The university library drafted an open access policy in 2011, which was adopted in December of 2012. The university Intellectual Property Policy was revised this year to match the Open Access Policy and the university started a tech and innovation support center to help researchers access information.

The new Open Access Policy specifies that publishing in open access journals does not hinder a person's promotion or tenure prospects. The university has a digital repository with CC-licensed works where staff members retain their copyright when they contribute to the repository; contribution is optional. Since its creation earlier this year, the repository has seen 3 million searches and 4 million item views. The university is now reaching out to alumni with the opportunity to add their works to the repository. The project has been great for the university and library because it increased the impact and visibility of research at the university and is facilitating global research collaboration. There are a few issues still being worked out, such as technical glitches, but the repository is off to a great start.

Another speaker from Kenya – Little Leo apologizes for not getting their name – discussed copyright exceptions and limitations in Kenya. There's a discontinuity within the Kenyan Constitution of 2010 which grants property rights and freedom of expression rights but without any sort of link between them. In general, Kenya has fair dealing, but its not fully defined. A recent case found a plagiarized university paper to be infringing. Another case found a book reviewing another book with a cover the same color as the original book to be a triable issue but didn't explain what copyright issue was involved.


Charles Batambuze of National Book Trust of Uganda discussed the Ugandan campaign for copyright reform. Although the Ugandan Copyright Act is fairly new, dating from 2006, discussion during the drafting of an anti-counterfeiting bill altered people to some problems with the copyright act. Campaign for reform started in earnest in 2012. Issues up for debate include the ability of libraries to format shift or circumvent technical protection measures, parallel imports, compulsory licensing provisions that would be logistically enforceable and prohibiting copyright exceptions and limitations from being overridden by private contracts. Journals are working to educate people about how copyright law affects average Ugandans and discussions are happening with people in government and vice chancellors at the universities. Charles also announced that the Ugandan Creative Commons licenses launched this year and rights holders are starting to use the licenses.

South Africa

Trudi van Wyk of the South African department of higher education and training discussed the importance of open educational content in South Africa. The important part when dealing with open educational content is not rights, but responsibilities. The South African government has decided to go the open route and now needs to insure that the materials used are of proper quality.

Open educational resources are not about cost-free resources, but about resources that are cost-free to the end-users. Therefore, creative business models are needed. Currently, schools in South Africa can choose whether to use the open resources or the proprietary ones. Open books are about $5, proprietary are about $25.

Afro Ng'ombe

Afro Ng'ombe

Subscribe via email (you'll be added to our Google Group)


Write comments
18 December 2013 at 11:04 delete

The second speaker from Kenya was Prof Ben Sihanya of the University of Nairobi and Sihanya Mentoring.