Celebrating World IP Day: Promoting Access to Knowledge and the Right to Research Seminar

Celebrating World IP Day: Promoting Access to Knowledge and the Right to Research Seminar

April 26th marks World Intellectual Property (IP) Day – an event established by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to raise awareness of patents, copyrights, designs, and trademarks, and to celebrate the creativity and contributions of inventors, authors, artists and entrepreneurs.1 The global theme for 2023 is Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity2. The goal of this year’s World IP Day is to highlight the accomplishments of many brilliant women while also recognizing, and attempting to rectify the low participation of women in IP Systems3. WIPO is keen on working towards gender equality4 and the inclusive participation of women in the international IP rights system, mainly through systematic gender mainstreaming and targeted activities5.

On the occasion of this year’s World IP Day, CIPIT hosted a seminar that focused on promoting access to knowledge and the right to research. This seminar was co-organized by the Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP), in cooperation with the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO). The seminar brought together national and international copyright experts from academia, the legal, policy and regulatory fields, and key stakeholders from the research, education, library and disability communities. Discussions focused on the practices of teaching and learning in the digital age, as well as education and the right to research in Kenyan copyright law.

There were enlightening presentations and a panel discussion from representatives from various institutions and organizations including KECOBO, the Universities’ Academic Staff Union (UASU), the Kenya Libraries and Information Services Consortium (KLISC), the Technical University of Kenya (TUK), the American University Washington College of Law, Policybandwidth, Bookshare Africa, EIFL and CIPIT. The first session of the seminar brought to the fore the perspectives of copyright users in teaching, learning and researching in the digital age. In this session, a representative of UASU talked about the inaccessibility of online material for students to conduct research during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the copying of the material that was readily available. This led to an in-depth analysis of the Copyright Act that showed that there is a narrow definition of fair dealing hence the lacuna in the law.6 Further to this discussion was an illustration of the challenges that students face in accessing information and the factors that lead to copying. The second presenter, from KLISC, highlighted the changing roles of librarians with the advance in technology. This presentation highlighted the new roles of librarians in the digital age and the challenges they face. Librarians have now taken up new roles as educators and knowledge navigators where they educate users about the use of digital resources and services and preside over a complex dynamic facility supporting a multitude of learning styles respectively. Some of the challenges that librarians face that stood out from the presentation were unreliable electric power supply and internet connectivity, insufficient funding for the university and consequently for the library and high costs for bandwidth access. The third presentation was by CIPIT’s acting director, Dr. Melissa Omino. She showed a video about the copyright concerns that emerged for researchers when carrying out natural language processing in Africa. This was highlighted in the Masakhane research project, where a jurisdictional challenge arose concerning the use of the data set of an American website and the fair dealing exceptions in the Kenya Copyright Act. The last presenter in this session, Natasha Karanja from CIPIT, outlined the rights and exceptions in Kenya’s copyright law.

The second session enlightened the audience on how global and local copyright laws support access to knowledge and the right to research. The first presenter from the American University Washington College of Law gave a detailed presentation on the right to research and comparative copyright limitations and exceptions. He highlighted aspects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that relate to copyright and then narrowed down to articles that delved into the right to research in Africa and how this can give a holistic approach to matters copyright in Africa. He also brought out aspects of the Berne Convention and articles on research exceptions in comparative copyright and legal reform to enhance global text and data mining research. He concluded his presentation by giving recommendations for the improvement of the Copyright Act of Kenya, which include expressly including computational research as an exception and opening the fair dealing exception. The next presentation was from Policybandwith and highlighted new global findings on how licenses help or hinder the right to research. The presentation focused on contract override prevention clauses which refer to clauses that require the nullification of license terms that override specific exceptions mandated by those directives. A list of countries with targeted and general contract override prevention clauses was presented. It was interesting to note that Kenya does not fall under any of these categories and this formed the basis of the recommendation that we should include an override prevention clause in our Copyright Act.

Following this was a presentation by CIPIT’s intellectual property research fellow, Chebet Koros. She highlighted CIPIT’s policy brief on the right to research and copyright law in Kenya with a focus on text and data mining. Representatives of TUK and KECOBO concluded the session with two presentations. The presentation given by TUK looked into access and the use of teaching and learning materials from a copyright perspective in Kenya. This involved delving into the review of section 26 of the Copyright Act and exceptions related to teaching materials in terms of fair dealing and fair use. The representative from KECOBO outlined their plans and developments in relation to copyright limitations and exceptions. This presentation primarily focused on fair dealing as set out in the second schedule of the Copyright Act, the three-step test highlighted in the Berne Convention and fair use and fair dealing as highlighted from selected jurisdictions.

The last session of the seminar dealt with the preservation and access to facilities for people living with disabilities and the launch of the Kenyan edition of guidelines on the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities.7

The participants of the seminar also discussed the need for empowerment of women in the informal sector through creating awareness of IP rights. Increasing the knowledge base of IP including cultural heritage preservation at the grassroots level for income generation was also highlighted during the seminar. The key takeaway in relation to access to knowledge and the right to research was that there is a need for a more expansive approach to integrating the exceptions present within the Kenyan copyright laws. Additionally, the seminar highlighted the mismatch between the existing exceptions in copyright laws and the realities of the individuals and groups that utilize the exceptions. Through collaborative efforts of all the relevant stakeholders, access to knowledge and the right to research can be effectively roped into intellectual property conversations through sensitization on the importance of IP and implementation of effective policy that would aim to maximize the benefit of exceptions and limitations of copyright law.

Image designed by F. Ogonjo.

1 WIPO, ‘World IP Day’, https://www.wipo.int/ip-outreach/en/ipday/ accessed 27 March 2023.

2 ibid.

3 WIPO, ‘Women and IP Accelerating innovation and creativity’, https://www.wipo.int/ip-outreach/en/ipday/2023/story.html accessed 16 May 2023.

4WIPO, ‘Intellectual Property, Gender, and Diversity’, https://www.wipo.int/women-and-ip/en/ accessed 27 March 2023.

5WIPO, ‘Frequently Asked Questions: World IP Day’, https://www.wipo.int/ip-outreach/en/ipday/2023/faq-world-ip-day.html accessed 27 March 2023.

6 Copyright Act of Kenya, section 26

7EIFL, ‘Getting Started: Marrakesh Treaty In Kenya’, https://www.eifl.net/news/getting-started-marrakesh-treaty-kenya accessed 28 March 2023.

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