CopyrightX 2017 Recap: A Kenyan Perspective

As many readers may know, this blogger is affiliate faculty teaching the CopyrightX course in Nairobi, Kenya. CopyrightX is a 12 week course, affiliated with the Harvard Law School and Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society and led by Prof. William W. Fisher III, WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property, Harvard Law School. CopyrightX includes three sets of students and teachers: roughly 90 students attending a course at Harvard Law School taught by Prof. Fisher; roughly 570 students attending an online course taught by 23 Harvard teaching fellows; and roughly 500 students attending 19 courses taught by faculty at affiliated universities and institutions.

In recent years, the course has been offered in Kenya from the end-January to end-April through The GoDown Arts Centre and CODE IP Trust. A key plan for this year was to encourage online interaction among the students and teachers. The rationale was that there may be several levels of interaction among students. Some students may wish to explore specific issues in copyright law at greater depth; others may share professions or vocations that make particular dimensions of copyright law especially salient; others might find useful or enjoyable greater contact with people who share common interests; and so forth. From a faculty perspective, we needed an online mode of communication to pass along important information as well as interact with the students. So, we set up a Slack Channel. The uptake was slow at first but as the course progressed, we all found this email-avoidance tool to be quite useful for both group and one-on-one discussions. Another great thing about this year’s course was that, we, the CopyrightX teachers, had several email exchanges of information concerning what we were doing in our individual courses around the world — and were able thereby to learn from each others’ experiences.
Our Special Event this year mirrored closely the 2017 Harvard Special Event since we hosted a representative from Google East Africa, Michael Murungi who happens to be one of the pioneer CopyrightX teachers in Kenya. Mr. Murungi spoke about copyright in practice, business and industry which was preceded by a lively presentation by Alex Gakuru on CopyrightX’s journey and future in Kenya. Also speaking at our event were representatives from film, music and arts sectors as well as IP lawyers from Kenya Copyright Board and private practice.
It is amazing how fast 12 weeks of lectures fly past. This year’s class seemed especially keen on the practical application of copyright law in their every day lives and work. Using the fictitious country of ‘Slackonia’, we presented various scenarios with problem questions to gauge the students’ ability to understand and apply copyright principles. We devoted a 13th week after the completion of the course to revision in preparation for the final exam.
As we have previously stated elsewhere, CopyrightX is a learning experience not just for the students but for the teachers, especially for us in Kenya. As experts in Kenyan copyright law, we are able to make comparisons with US law and see strengths, weaknesses and possible areas for reform. The only thing left is for us to publish books and articles that draw from these various experiences to present copyright law to Kenyans and Africans in a way that is clear and accessible.
See you next year!

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