Copyright Policy And The Right To Science And Culture

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Reposted from Afro-IP and infojustice.org: A report entitled ‘Copyright policy and the right to science and culture’ authored by the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, has been released, Prof. Carolyn Ncube writes.

(Download the report here, ref A/HRC/28/57)

The document summary reads:

‘In the present report, the Special Rapporteur examines copyright law and policy from the perspective of the right to science and culture, emphasizing both the need for protection of authorship and expanding opportunities for participation in cultural life.

Recalling that protection of authorship differs from copyright protection, the Special Rapporteur proposes several tools to advance the human rights interests of authors. The Special Rapporteur also proposes to expand copyright exceptions and limitations to empower new creativity, enhance rewards to authors, increase educational opportunities, preserve space for non-commercial culture and promote inclusion and access to cultural works. An equally important recommendation is to promote cultural and scientific participation by encouraging the use of open licences, such as those offered by Creative Commons.’

The report is comprehensive and thorough and well worth a read. Due to this, it is also fairly difficult to summarise, so for purposes of enticing readers of this post to go and read the full report, I’ll simply highlight one aspect of the report, namely its overview of best practices.

The report notes that copyright regimes may  be aligned with the right to science and culture by ‘reforming copyright laws to better protect the right to science and culture or supporting novel approaches that encourage innovation and creativity for broader access’. Either of these approaches may be used or they be used concurrently. Brazil and the UK are cited as examples of countries that have used ‘highly participatory’ copyright reform processes that have enabled the public to engage with the law and led to better alignment with ‘human rights and other public interests’.

Mexican, Indian and South African efforts to encourage open access scholarly publishing and the production of open educational resources were cited as examples of novel approaches to stimulating  innovation and creativity for broader access. Whilst in Mexico these efforts are driven by government agencies and universities via the the National Consortium of Scientific and Technological Information Resources , in South Africa the cited example is Siyavula, a private entity created to serve the dire need for current and relevant learning materials in many public schools. Siyavula  has partnered with government to distribute these books, which are creative commons licensed (see the list of books and distribution information here). India’s Pratham Books produces creative commons licensed  ‘high-quality, low-cost children’s books for a massively muliti-lingual and multi-cultural market’. It ‘partners with government agencies, corporate sponsors and non-profit organizations to disseminate more than 1 million books each year’.

Plenty of inspiration for determined states and interested persons. The Report is concluded with a series of recommendations relating to
1. Ensuring transparency and public participation in law-making
2. Ensuring the compatibility of copyright laws with human rights
3. Protection of the moral and material interests of authors
4. Copyright limitations and exceptions and the “three-step test”
5. Adopting policies fostering access to science and culture
6. Indigenous peoples, minorities and marginalized groups
7. The right to science and culture and copyright in the digital environment

Farida Shaheed will present this report at the 28th session of the Human Rights Council on 11 March 2015, in Geneva.

Caroline Ncube is an associate professor at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) Law School.

Image Credits: OHCHR

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