Copyright and education in Africa: Launch of the ACA2K network

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By Asma Hassan for ACA2K

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 29 April 2008

As the global community marks World Intellectual Property Day 2008 (26 April), an eight-country African research network is being launched with a mandate to investigate the relationship between copyright and education in African countries.

The network, called the African Copyright & Access to Knowledge network (ACA2K network), is a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda, supported by a team of international advisors.

Between now and early 2010, the ACA2K team will gather research evidence, and engage with policymakers, in an effort to ensure maximum use of copyright law flexibilities that have the potential to increase learning materials access in the study countries. Access to both digital and hard-copy resources will be probed.

The ACA2K network comes out of the access to knowledge (A2K) paradigm within the intellectual property field – a paradigm which regards the protection and promotion of user access as a central objective of copyright law. The A2K approach seeks an appropriate balance between the rights of content users and the rights of the content rights-holders, with particular attention to the types of balancing necessary in developing country contexts. Elements of this approach connect with the World Intellectual Property Day focus on “encouraging creativity,” from a clear developing world perspective.

The eight initial study countries have been chosen to provide a wide range of African contexts, in terms of legal, linguistic, cultural and historical experiences/traditions.

The ACA2K network also has a clear focus on the opportunities and challenges offered by the digital, Internet era – in which there are greater opportunities for learning materials access, but also new technological, legal and behavioural barriers.

Over the next two years, ACA2K researchers in each of the eight study countries will investigate the “copyright environment” (policies, laws, regulations, practices, perceptions) in their respective countries in relation to access to learning materials by their countries’ learning communities, with a particular emphasis on tertiary university learning environments.

Of central concern to the network is to find out which copyright law flexibilities are being deployed in each of the study countries, and the effects these flexibilities have in these countries. Examples of important possible flexibilities are legal exceptions, limitations and regulations that cater for:
• use of learning materials in teaching, research, learning
• distance education
• adaptation and use of learning materials by the sensory-disabled
• local-language translations of learning materials
• affordable local pricing of materials

Also of concern to the network are the gender dynamics at play in the national copyright environments and at play in the realities of access to learning materials, both digital and hard-copy.

After the completion of the country studies, there will then be a comparative review of the findings across all of the countries, and presentation of research findings and policy recommendations through a National Policy Dialogue Seminar in each country.

The ACA2K network is supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and South Africa’s Shuttleworth Foundation, and managed through the LINK Centre, Wits University, Johannesburg.

The network held a Methodology Workshop in Johannesburg in January 2008, and has just finalised a Methodology Guide. The Guide is the roadmap for the project’s research and policy engagement activities between now and early 2010.

The ACA2K Methodology Guide and other information on the project can be found at the ACA2K’s website: www.aca2k.org

(END/2008)

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