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The ACA2K Country Nodes have been chosen in order to provide the research project with a range of country contexts, in terms of:

  • geographical regions;
  • colonial/linguistic/legal legacy;
  • the current state of reform of copyright law and regulations, e.g., recently-amended, in the case of Ghana, Egypt, Uganda, Senegal, and delayed amendment, in the case of South Africa;
  • participation in the WIPO “Development Agenda” process, e.g., Egyptian, Kenyan and South African participation in the Africa Group of the WIPO Friends of Development (FoD) grouping;
  • existing digital commons work, e.g., Creative Commons and iCommons in South Africa, Bibliotecha Alexandrina in Egypt; and
  • existing research and advocacy work around copyright and learning materials access, e.g., the 2006 Bibliotecha Alexandrina (BA) A2K Seminar in Alexandria, the 2005 Africa Copyright Forum Conference in Kampala, and the Commons-sense, Creative Commons and A2LM Southern Africa work in South Africa.

1. ACA2K Egypt Node (back to top)

Egypt has been a centre of learning and learning materials since ancient times, from the days of the establishment of the historic Library of Alexandria. The tradition of concern with access to knowledge (A2K) issues continues today through the work, among others, of Bibliotecha Alexandrina, which hosted an important access to knowledge (A2K) meeting in 2006.

The Egyptian government is an active proponent of the WIPO Development Agenda, and a key player within the African Group that is part of the WIPO Friends of Development grouping of countries. The Egypt delegation to WIPO made a powerful submission to the April 2005 WIPO IIM on the Development Agenda, submitting, among other things, that:

“…we welcome and appreciate the ongoing positive cooperation between Egypt and WIPO, and look forward to further enhance it in the future. On the other hand, there is a need to renovate WIPO’s methodology in providing its technical assistance, in order for the latter to serve as a positive and effective component in the achievement of the national policy objectives of the developing and least developed countries. This will not be attained unless such assistance is provided on a clearer basis of transparency and coherence. In addition, it should effectively address means to maximize the benefits of the developing and least developed countries from the rights and flexibilities provided to them in the relevant multilateral agreements” (Permanent Mission of Egypt, 2005).

Thus, it is clear that the Egyptian government is a strong proponent of maximum use of available intellectual property legal flexibilities for developmental purposes. The Egyptian government also participated in the Bibliotecha Alexandrina worksop on access to knowledge in 2006, entitled “New Tools for the Dissemination of Knowledge and the Promotion of Innovation & Creativity” (Bibliotecha Alexandrina, 2006; IP Watch, 2006).

The Egyptian government has in recent years taken steps to attempt to use available limitations and exceptions for copyright. For instance, Article 148 of the country’s 2002 IPR law contains a provision that provides for the a rights-holder’s exclusive right to translate a work into Arabic to cease “unless the author or the translator assume such right directly or through an intermediary, within three years calculated from the date of first publication of the original or translated work” (Arab Republic of Egypt, 2002). And Article 170 of the Egyptian IP Code allows for the issuing of a compulsory licence for copying and translating of works (IIPA in Ress, 2007). Bibliotecha Alexandrina  is active in the digitisation of learning materials, via projects such as DigiArab initiative and the Arabic & Middle Eastern Electronic Library (AMEEL).Through this work and other efforts at building online access to knowledge, BA has found itself needing to advocate for more enabling copyright rules for the online environment (IP Watch, 2006).

2. ACA2K Ghana Node (Back to top)

Ghana presents an important context for the ACA2K study, because the government has, in recent years, tightened copyright rules in the country, including:

  • an increase in the size of fines for cases of copyright piracy; and
  • an increase in copyright term from the life of the author plus 50 years to the life of the author plus 70 year thereafter (Republic of Ghana, 2005).

This extension of the copyright term to at least 70 years is beyond what is required by international treaties and is an example of what is known as a “TRIPs-Plus” provision – a provision going beyond what is required by the WTO’s TRIPs Agreement. Such provisions are of major concern to the A2K movement.

Also of concern to some in Ghana is the fact that the country’s copyright law appears to restrict the use of folklore by Ghanaians. The restrictions come from the fact that the rights of folklore are now vested, via the 2005 Copyright Act, in the state (Republic of Ghana, 2005). Consequently, the Coalition of Concerned Copyright Advocates (COCCA) has complained about copyright law provisions in Ghana which could lead to jail terms for writers and other artists using their traditional folklore to create commercial works without paying a levy to the state (Ghana Review International, 2004).

Additionally, recent research into learning materials access at the University of Ghana (Darkey, 2007) suggests that Ghana’s toughened approach to copyright protection is at odds with the needs of students and librarians, who find themselves needing to violate copyright law in order to, among other things, access photocopied versions of textbooks. Researcher Emmanuel Mensah Darkey has begun to investigate the issue of non-copyright-compliance owing to the need for students to photocopy protected materials to promote academic work. In his research, Darkey has estimated that there are “more than 100 commercial photocopy centres on the main campus of the University of Ghana alone” (Darkey, 2007).

Furthermore, Ghana plays host to the Association of African Universities (AAU), which, among other things, has made efforts in recent years to increase African universities’ development of online publishing of theses and dissertations -- through the AAU Database of Theses and Dissertations (DATAD) Initiative (AAU, 2007).

Ghana also has a strong library development and literacy movement, led by the Ghana Book Trust (GBT). The GBT, established in 1989, is well-networked internationally with organisations such as CODE, the International Book Bank, Books for Africa, the Sabre Foundation, Book-Aid International and Australia’s Ghana Educational Assistance Forum (Australia). In 2001 GBT started a children’s library, with an electronic component, at its office in Accra, and it has received recognition and support from the Ghanaian Parliament and the Ghana Book Development Council. The GBT, which supports librarian training, library development and local-language publishing (e.g., in the Twi language), works with the Ghana Education Service, the Ghana Library Board, and the Ghana Publishers Association.

The activities of the above stakeholders vis-à-vis the copyright system, and access generally, are therefore important for this kind of study in Ghana.

3. ACA2K Kenya Node (Back to top)

Kenya is an important country for the ACA2K research network because of its role as a key East African economy, and it is one of the African countries among the 14 countries that have come to be known as the Friends of Development group at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). This group of FoD countries, which also includes other ACA2K study countries Egypt and South Africa, has been backing the Development Agenda at WIPO, as begun in 2005 when the WIPO General Assembly adopted a proposal from the government delegations of Argentina and Brazil for "the Establishment of a Development Agenda for WIPO".  Among other things, the FoD countries are advocating for:

  • reform of WIPO’s governance and accountability structures;
  • the need for sustainable development impact assessments (DIAs) to become part of WIPO’s core work;
  • greater WIPO support for technology transfer to the developing world; and
  • WIPO technical assistance to developing nations focussing on assisting these nations to make use of flexibilities allowed in terms of international agreements such as the WIPO Berne Convention, the WIPO Internet Treaties and the WTO TRIPs Agreement.

In 2001, Kenya passed a new copyright law that provides strong copyright protection with limited exceptions and limitations, especially in relation to access to learning materials. The Kenya Copyright Board, together with other stakeholders, is currently reviewing the Copyright Act with the aim of revising exceptions and limitations to ensure a balance between copyright protection and access to knowledge. Examples of such flexibilities under consideration are inclusion of specific exceptions for the visually impaired, and more flexibility for non-commercial library and educational use.

Although Kenya has a vibrant publishing industry as well as academic sector, the reading culture is poor. The National Book Development Council has in recent years embarked on a project to encourage a reading culture in Kenya. To this end, the Council has held book fairs with children’s reading tents, as well as reading pavilions. The main aim is to encourage a strong reading culture and also to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge. The enactment of a policy to encourage a reading culture is also central to access to knowledge.

Kenya has at least 42 community libraries. The Kenya Library Association has also been at the forefront of encouraging the use and dissemination of knowledge within the country. In the last three years the association has actively participated in international meetings held by IFLA and COMLA and hosted the World Social Forum for Librarians in East Africa in July 2006.

With the process of harmonisation of intellectual property laws in East Africa underway, the partner states in this region have an opportunity to ensure that the laws and policies on copyright protection facilitate dissemination and access to knowledge.

4. ACA2K Morocco Node (Back to top)

Morocco is an important study context for the ACA2K network because, among other things, it provides an example of an African country that has accepted restrictive “TRIPs-Plus” provisions around intellectual property.

A danger for developing countries arises when powerful trading players use the WTO TRIPs Agreement as a starting point and seek, through bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs), to secure greater copyright protection, and fewer exceptions, than those provided by TRIPs. Such maximalist IP chapters in FTA agreements are known as TRIPs-Plus chapters and have been pursued by the United States and the EU, both of which have elements in their copyright rules that go beyond what is required by TRIPs.

The US succeeded in including TRIPs-Plus chapters in its free trade agreement (FTA) with Morocco in 2004. The US also sought TRIPs-Plus, until the breakdown in negotiations, in its proposed FTA with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries: South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia.

5. ACA2K Mozambique Node (Back to top)

Inclusion of Mozambique in the ACA2K network provides the project with a Portuguese-speaking country coming from a Portuguese colonial experience.

Even more importantly, a Mozambican ACA2K researcher has highlighted the fact that the issue of access to learning materials is very prominent in Mozambican government circles at present. This researcher, who works for Mozambique’s Industrial Property Institute (IPI), was recently asked to provide input on copyright/royalty issues in relation to Mozambican school textbook development.

6. ACA2K Senegal Node (Back to top)

Senegal presents an important study country for several reasons. For one, it is a leading West African economy with a relatively strong publishing sector, including the work of CODESRIA, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa. CODESRIA is a non-profit NGO based in the Senegalese capital Dakar. Established in 1973, it is a leading research organization and is also active in hard-copy and online book and journal publishing (CODESRIA, 2007).

As well, intellectual property law reform is, at present, a prominent policy item in Senegal. A new intellectual property bill was tabled in Parliament  in 2007 (AngolaPress, 2007), and the Senegalese Minister of Culture, Birame Diouf, was quoted in April 2007 as saying that one of the objects of the new law would be to establish national unit to tackle piracy and counterfeiting (AngolaPress, 2007).

Thus, the bill, strongly backed by the music industry, aims to tighten measures against entertainment (music, film) piracy. At the same time, however, there is optimism in some quarters in Senegal that the legislative process around copyright in the country can eventually lead to increased exceptions and limitations for educational materials.

7. ACA2K South Africa Node (Back to top)

The South African context is an important one for this research project because, among other things, of the country’s role as Africa’s largest economy (with a strong publishing sector), and its role in the African Group of the WIPO Friends of Development grouping of nations.

South Africa is already home to Creative Commons South Africa, The African Commons Project (TACP), iCommons International, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT’s) IP Research Unit, and the work of Wits University in Johannesburg by the office of the Wits Copyright Services Librarian and by the Wits LINK Centre.

Two members of the South African ACA2K research team are members of the UCT IP Research Unit, which was officially established in 2007. Meanwhile, the Wits Copyright Services Librarian is a founder of the African Access to Knowledge Alliance (AAKA), and the Wits LINK Centre, among other things, hosted the 2005 Common-Sense African Digital Commons conference and helped launch Creative Commons South Africa.

South Africa is also home to one of ACA2K’s supporting organisations, the Shuttleworth Foundation, which is doing pioneering work on A2K issues and collaborates, among others, with personnel at the UCT IP Research Unit and the Wits LINK Centre.

South Africa was also host in 2004-06 to the pioneering Access to Learing Materials in Southern Africa (A2LM) Project, run via Consumer Association South Africa and supported by the Open Society Institute (OSI).

The copyright law and policy environment has been a highly contested one in recent years in South Africa, with two attempts at copyright law reform meeting with significant opposition and subsequently being abandoned. The status of copyright law reform is currently uncertain but the South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has said it is embarking on a five-year copyright reform process. In some specific areas of intellectual property law, however, legislative preparations have reached a more advanced level and both a revised draft Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research Bill and a draft Intellectual Property Rights Amendment Bill have recently been published. The latter draft bill predominantly addresses the issue of traditional knowledge.

South Africa has also been an important site of struggle around US efforts at including so-called TRIPs- Plus copyright provisions in free trade agreements. Between 2003 and 2006, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) sought to negotiate an FTA with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) group of countries, which is comprised of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. This FTA was to include TRIPs-Plus provisions, including extended copyright terms and entrenchment of the use of technological protection measures (TPM) (Prabhala & Caine, 2005). However, the SACU countries eventually decided against the FTA (Nicholson, 2006).

8. ACA2K Uganda Node (Back to top)

The Ugandan context is an important one because it presently offers mixed messages in terms of A2K. The country has amended its copyright law in recent years in a manner that has not taken full advantage of available limitations and exceptions. As a former British colony, Uganda follows a common law system. Starting with the 1953 Copyright Act, based on the British Act, Uganda’s copyright environment remained relatively stable until the 2006 Copyright Act amendment that introduced wide-ranging changes in the then-Copyright Act of 1964.

What makes Uganda an important study context is one of the factors leading to the amendment of the 1964 Act. Uganda largely depends on donors or development partners for as much as 50% of the national budget. As part of economic reforms, the donors expect changes in the country’s trade-related laws, including intellectual property laws. Against that background, Uganda started major legal reforms to meet the needs of the donors as well as the country’s development objectives. Uganda is also part of the East African Community covering Kenya,Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. The East African Community resolved to update intellectual property laws to protect creative industries. This environment of external pressure and some internal demands from artists has created an active copyright environment in Uganda with serious concequencies for education and research. For instance, the new law places greater emphasis on enforcement with potential to limit access and use of information for education and research.

Uganda has a vibrant information sector, including a small but fast-growing publishing industry. Uganda also boosts of one of the most liberalised telecommunications industries, which has contributed tremendously to growth of the country’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector. Given that environment, education and research institutions are making full use of digital technology for instruction and research. Unfortunately, the less-than-favorable copyright environment potentially stands in the way of full exploitation of ICTs and digital resources. 

The Ugandan academic sector has been prominent in A2K circles, including the November 2005 Africa Copyright Forum Conference in Kampala, hosted by the National Library of Uganda and supported by the National Library Association of Uganda, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Africa Section and the Commonwealth of Learning (CoL) Virtual Copyright Group.


African Association of Universities (AAU) (2007) DATAD Initiative website, http://www.aau.org/datad, accessed July 2007.

African Group (2005) The African Proposal for the Establishment of a Development Agenda for the World Intellectual Property Organisation, submitted to WIPO by the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations Office in Geneva, 15 July, http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/mdocs/en/iim_3/iim_3_2.pdf, accessed May 2007.

AngolaPress (2007) Senegal Readies Bill on Intellectual Property Rights, 28 April, http://www.angolapress-angop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=527827, retrieved May 2007.

Arab Republic of Egypt (2002) Law No. 82 of 2002 Pertaining to the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights, http://www.solimanadvocates.com/Publications/law82-1.pdfm accessed July 2007.

Bibliotecha Alexandrina (2006) New Tools for the Dissemination of Knowledge Seminar, http://www.bibalex.org/a2k, accessed July 2007.

CODESRIA (2007) CODESRIA website, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, http://www.codesria.org, accessed July 2007.

CPTech (2007) Compulsory Licensing for Copyright Blog, http://www.cptech.org/blogs/cl4copyright, accessed July 2007.

Darkey, EM (2007) Photocopy and Education In Ghana, 16 April, http://www.kent.ac.uk/law/copysouthfiles/reader_response/Emmanuel-Darkey-Ghana.html, accessed May 2007.

Friends of Development (FoD) (2005) Proposal to Establish a Development Agenda for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO): An Elaboration of Issues Raised in Document WO/GA/31/11, Submission by the Group of Friends of Development (FoD), April, http://www.ipjustice.org/WIPO/elaborationDA.html, accessed May 2007.

Ghana News Agency (GNA) (2006) Copyright Laws Made Tougher, 29 December, http://www.ghana.gov.gh/news/article.php?id=0000018340, accessed May 2007.

Ghana Review International (2004) Parliament asked to remove clauses from Copyright Bill, 15 September, http://ghanareview.com/review/index.php?class=all&date=2004-09-15&id=7069.

IP Justice (2007) Development Agenda, http://ipjustice.org/wp/campaigns/wipo/wipo-development-agenda/

IP-Watch (2006) Inside Views: Egypt Seminar Highlights Copyright Laws’ Impact On Library Access, 14 September, http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/index.php?p=394&res=1280&print=0, accessed July 2007.

LINK Centre (2006) Southern African Journal of Information & Communication (SAJIC), Issue 7, http://www.researchictafrica.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=533

National Library of Uganda (NLU) (2005) Africa Copyright Forum Conference, http://www.nlu.go.ug/acfc.htm

Nicholson, D (2006) Intellectual Property: Benefit or Burden for Africa, IFLA Journal 32(4): 308-324, http://www.ifla.org/V/iflaj/IFLA-Journal-4-2006.pdf

Permanent Mission of Egypt to Geneva (2005) Statement of Egypt, Intersessional Intergovernmental Meeting on WIPO Development Agenda, 11-13 April, http://www.cptech.org/ip/wipo/egypt-iim1.doc

Prabhala, A & Caine, C (2005) Memorandum on the Free Trade Agreement negotiations between the United States and the Southern African Customs Union, Access to Learning Materials in Southern Africa project, Consumer Institute SA, Johannesburg, http://ibt.afrihost.com/accessof/files/us-sacu-fta.doc

Ress, M (2007) Friday, February 16, 2007, IIPA ‘Recommendations’ Regarding Compulsory Licenses, CPTech Compulsory Licensing for Copyright Blog, 16 February, http://www.cptech.org/blogs/cl4copyright

Republic of Ghana (2005) Copyright Act, 2005 (Act 690).

SCECSAL (2006) Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and Southern African Library and Information Associations, Kenya Country Report, 2004-2006,  http://www.scecsal.org/sklacr06.html

US Trade Representative (USTR) (2004) Final Text of the Morocco Free Trade Agreement: Chapter 15: Intellectual Property Rights, http://www.ustr.gov/assets/Trade_Agreements/Bilateral/Morocco_FTA/FInal_Text/asset_upload_file797_3849.pdf, accessed May 2007.

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