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Reviewed by:
  • Access to Knowledge in Africa: The Role of Copyright ed. by Chris Armstrong et al.
  • Marshall Thompson
Armstrong, Chris, Jeremy de Beer, Khaled Fourati, and Sisule Musungu, eds. 2010. ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE IN AFRICA: THE ROLE OF COPYRIGHT. Cape Town, South Africa: UCT Press. 366 pp.

Edited by Chris Armstrong, Jeremy de Beer, Khaled Fourati, and Sisule Musungu, Access to Knowledge in Africa: The Role of Copyright is the product of an international research endeavor of the African Copyright and Access to Knowledge Project, also known as ACA2K. The project was designed to examine relationships among copyright, education, and access to learning materials. Its coverage spans eight countries: Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda. Each country is featured in a chapter.

The project began with a long-term vision of copyright regimes that would maximize access to knowledge. To promote this vision, the researchers collected information that would contribute to evidence-based copyright policymaking. The research techniques they used include a legal-doctrinal review, a qualitative impact assessment, and a comparative review. The project was led by Chris Armstrong, who served as research manager; at the time, he was a visiting research fellow at the University of Witwatersrand. Four principal investigators collaborated with him: Jeremy de Beer, an associate professor in the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa; Dick Kawooya, a senior lecturer in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin; Achal Prabhala, a researcher and writer in Bangalore, India; and Tobias Schonwetter, at the time of the publication of the volume a postdoctoral fellow in the faculty of law at the University of Cape Town. The volume has twenty-one additional contributors.

The project was launched when the international research team met for a workshop at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg; this was followed by a workshop in Cairo. Developing and employing systematic, robust, and reproducible research methods were important objectives of the project, and the team largely succeeded. The team hypothesized that national copyright environments do not maximize access to knowledge but can be improved to increase it (p. 9).

A copyright environment is broadly construed to encompass international treaty obligations, domestic law, case law, regulatory rulings, enforcement and lack of enforcement by governments, economic considerations, and the behavior of owners and consumers of copyright-protected materials. At the core of the project lay the first of three research methods: legal-doctrinal review. Here, the country research teams investigated the process for obtaining copyright, the scope and duration of protection, exceptions [End Page 141] and limitations, the inclusion and nature of fair-dealing or fair-use provisions, and provisions specifically for those in academia and those with disabilities. The second research method was a qualitative impact assessment, based on interviews with stakeholders and supported by literature reviews. In the lexicon of the outcome-mapping technique employed by the project, the stakeholders are termed boundary partners. Those included varied by country, but most country teams interviewed staff in government departments responsible for copyright law, education, arts, and culture; staff from administrative and/or enforcement agencies; authors, copyright owners, and staff from industry associations; educators, librarians, and academic administrators; students and researchers; and distributors and telecommunication providers. Interview formats varied but included conventional interviews, participatory interviews, and focus groups. The third research method was a comparative review, found in chapter ten.

The legal-doctrinal analysis indicates that all eight study countries provide strong copyright protection, in some cases exceeding international standards. Seven of the countries have made major changes in their copyright laws since 2001, and in each of these cases the emphasis has been on protecting copyright owners, rather than on expanding access; South Africa was the exception. The limitations and exceptions within national laws fail sufficiently to address e-learning, distance learning, and disabled persons’ needs. There is no indication that any of the countries has, to any significant degree, taken advantage of the flexibilities that exist within international agreements to allow for expanded access to materials. The findings of the qualitative impact assessment indicate a large divergence between copyright law and practices regarding access to learning materials. This research, which largely for pragmatic reasons focused...


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pp. 141-143
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