Intellectual Property Rights

How Might Technology Support The Use Of Open Educational Practices (And Resources)?

Posted on Updated on

Today it’s a chat, yesteryear it was a letter. And before then, a telegram. Wait, Telegram is an app. It is 2019. – Primera M.

Education is fundamentally about sharing knowledge and ideas. Open education, when properly leveraged, can help anyone, anywhere in the world access free, effective, open learning materials for a marginal cost. In addition,  Open Educational Resources (OER) are defined as teaching, learning and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others.

Read the rest of this entry »

Copyright – A Quick History on Uganda

Posted on Updated on

In 1973, Uganda joined the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Uganda is one of 19 member states of the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization an intergovernmental organization (IGO) that facilitates cooperation among the member states in intellectual property matters.

On Dec 10, 1982, Uganda signed onto the Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Finding, and (Re)Using CC Licensed Resources

Posted on Updated on

Welcome to yet another post in the #CCByBrian series.

CC licenses are standardized – which means the terms and conditions are the same for all works subject to the same type of CC license. Despite creatives and authors who use the licenses wanting to make modifications to meet diverse ( or slightly different) needs and wants, CC strongly discourages from customizing open copyright licenses. Aside from the confusion this might create, it will take an immense amount of time and effort for users to learn about these bespoke customization. If you change any of the terms and conditions of a CC license, you cannot call it a Creative Commons license or otherwise use the CC trademarks. This rule also applies if you try to add restrictions on what people can do with CC licensed work through your separate agreements, such as website terms of service or privacy policies.

There is a detailed CC legal policy outlining these rules, but the best way to apply them is to ask yourself: is what you want to do going to make it easier or harder for people to use your CC licensed work? Note that all of the above applies to creators of CC licensed work. You can never change the legal terms that apply to someone else’s CC licensed work.

Read the rest of this entry »

Anatomy of CC Licences

Posted on Updated on

Welcome to what has now become a very exciting #CreativeCommons (CC) series.

Let’s Refresh on the basics

CC licenses give creators (or licensors) a clear and standard way to grant users (or licensees) permission to use creative work. Essentially, you are trying to tell a potential reuser of your creative work what they can freely and legally do (or not do). Remember, even with CC licenses, authors and creators retain their copyright and are recognized (or get credit) for their work. These common features serve as the baseline, on top of which licensors can choose to grant additional permissions when deciding how they want their work to be used. In this post, I delve into the exact structure and anatomy of the CC licenses.

CC licenses function within copyright (the “all rights reserved” approach), yet they differ by employing a “some rights reserved” approach. By default, all CC licenses grant the public permission to use the works. The licenses provide for additional conditions, but remain in place for as long as the underlying copyright lasts or until a reuser violates the license terms. It is fundamental to clarify that CC licenses work on top of copyright, not instead of copyright.

Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding Copyright (Law)

Posted on Updated on

Welcome to the second post my #CopyrightEdu series (also written in submission as an assignment to my Creative Commons Certification class – which by the way is so exciting!)

So I play the guitar, but not quite like Charmant – he plays, but has invested significant effort into a creative project – a music album! Whatever his motivation for doing this, did you know that at the time creatives like Charmant are making new works of art like music, or maybe poetry, it may not be clear to them that there is such a thing called automatic copyright – and it likely restricts most reuses by others without their permission? What if you knew upfront, would it change the way you create? or the rules under which you might want to copyright your work?

Copyright law, even though it varied from one country to another, just like traffic laws, is very integral to our lives – specifically creating limits on how others may use the original works of creatives. It establishes the basic terms of use that apply automatically to original works, giving the creator or owner of copyright certain exclusive rights while also recognizing that users have certain rights to use these works without the need for a license or permission.

Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding Creative Commons

Posted on Updated on

This post was created, in response to CC Certification Assignment – #1

So you have seen the circled C – the embodiment of restrictions – All Rights Reserved – the tag that accompanies CopyRight. This month, I am part of the Creative Commons Certificate Class, and I invite you, through my assignment, to discover how we got here (copyright); and how we can move on from here.

The story of Creative Commons (fondly aka CC) begins with copyright. Copyright, in law, regulates the way human creativity products are used – like books, academic research articles, music, and art. The creator, or author, gets a set of exclusive rights so that they can prevent others from copying and adapting their work (for a limited time).

This may have been okay in a world without the technological advancements of the 21st century. The internet has given us the opportunity to access, share, and collaborate on all human creations at an unprecedented rate (and scale). This instant-always-on-sharing capabilities made possible by digital technology are in tension with the sharing restrictions embedded within copyright laws around the world.

Technology makes it possible for online content to be consumed by millions of people at once, and it can be copied, shared, and remixed with speed and ease. But copyright law places limits on our ability to take advantage of these possibilities. Creative Commons was founded to help us realize the full potential of the internet.

How does one work around this real, and ever present conflict?

Read the rest of this entry »

I (could) Own You

Posted on Updated on

Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan once said, “…health will finally be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for ”

The United States Supreme Court has started hearing a case that highlights the role of Intellectual Property Rights for Health and Human Rights. The big issue?  Can human genes – yours and mine – be patented? In lay man’s language, can and should an individual be permitted to own the right to 1,or 2 or even 3 of the building blocks of the human gene? Or can an innovative doctor or lab researcher be given permission to own the right, say, to test whether you have a set of genes that imply a higher than 50% probability of developing breast cancer?
If you are new to the world of Intellectual Properties, perhaps its as clear a NO as the noon-day sun. I cannot own your genes…right?

A Medical Research company might own, at most, the intellectual property underlying its genetic test; and, because the research and development needed to develop the test may have cost a considerable amount, the firm might rightly charge for administering it. That seems fair, right?

Intellectual Property Rights are rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her inventive creation (literary and artistic works, Symbols, Names, Images, Designs) for a certain period of time, usually as a bargain that the outcomes of the rights will benefit society.

But a Utah-based company, Myriad Genetics,  now intends to claim more than just the tests they helped to discover – they now claim to own the rights to any test for the presence of the two critical genes associated with breast cancer – and have every intention of ruthlessly enforcing these rights. A similar, and more advanced test for Breast Cancer genes was developed by Yale University, who are also willing to share this at a  much lower cost.

We need to appreciate advances in Medicine, and the fact that these come from men and women who spend hundreds of hours in research labs, testing and pivoting their results, to perfection. We need them to be thorough, so that when their inventions are out of the test-tube, they can save life! Companies like Myriad wish to block advances in testing by other researchers  in a bid to protect their rights to the tests, and as such with every passing day, another life will be lost for lack of a perfected, cheaper test for Breast Cancer, HIV, Malaria, you name it. The desire to protect rights is now the cause of the very lives it intended to enrich when Myriad first went into the Lab.

How did we end up here? Well, Uganda has been a member of the WTO since 1 Jan 1995, See our FootPrint. In effect this means that we comply with the rules of the World Trade Organization, part of which are Intellectual Property Rights, and most recently, Trade Related Aspects of IPRs (a.k.a The TRIPS Agreement – Full Text for the legalese, and FAQs)

So why the fuss about your genes? Well, you see, its important and only fair to reward innovation – and Patents, Industrial designs, Trademarks, Geographical Indications, Trade Secrets, Copyrights (For works of Art), Sui Generis Systems (for Electronics like Integrated Circuits) and Plant Breeders’ rights – are all valid and proper ways to recognize and reward such innovation. But there must be a line between your innovation and how it can actually be used by the society.

The reason India remains a supplier of most medicines is that in their Patents Act, 1970 (For pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals): You can not receive Patent Protection for a product – only the process! And the maximum term? 7 years – that’s why their prices are the lowest in the world and they continue to supply generic drugs to a lot of nations. To this day, they protect the social benefits ahead of anything else – See Recent Supreme Court Ruling

That is an example of a trade off that is instituted by the law – such a trade off appears to make for weaker Intellectual Property Rights,  BUT, ensures better social benefits for the billions of earthlings able to access Indian manufactured drugs. In the Myriad case, there is already a globally funded Human Genome Project, and Researchers like Myriad benefit from the knowledge arising out of such “public good” only to run around and arm-twist us into awarding them more protection in patents.

Perhaps a worse problem is that in developing countries and LDCs, most patent holders are foreigners which means what is being protected is foreign owned property. For example, 91% of patents granted in Malaysia in 2008 were to foreigners and this trend has been constant. Between 1991 and 2004 only 20 patents were granted to applicants from LDCs (compared to 1.8 million patents granted to developed countries).

So is the current patent system good? Bad? Terrible? Does it actually encourage or stifle innovation? In Flash of Genius, 2008, the professor who sues FORD for infringing on his Intellectual Properties in the design of that all important car wiper, defended himself using this analogy: That whereas Shakespeare did not invent the English language, nor the words of the English language, not even the alphabet, his works cannot be claimed by anyone in the world – its to his credit that he arranged the letters of words, in some of the world’s most famous prose!

So why does Myriad want to patent my genes? Am almost certain Myriad did not invent the technologies used to analyze the genes, and even doubly sure, that had these technologies been patented themselves, Myriad might not have made its discoveries. But most importantly, if Myriad wins this case, how else will other researchers be able to use the “public knowledge” therein to develop better and more accurate tests? What future does such a landmark case secure? Moreover, what future does it guarantee for Least Developing Countries?

All research is based on prior research. A poorly designed patent system – like the one we have now – can inhibit follow-on research. That is why we do not allow patents for basic insights in mathematics. And it is why research shows that patenting genes actually reduces the production of new knowledge about genes: the most important input in the production of new knowledge is prior knowledge, to which patents inhibit access.

Fortunately, what motivates most significant advances in knowledge is not profit, but the pursuit of knowledge itself. This has been true of all of the trans-formative discoveries and innovations – DNA, transistors, lasers, the Internet, and so on. And knowledge, and the access to it, are and should remain Human Rights!

Sadly, the US and other advanced countries have been pressing for stronger intellectual-property regimes around the world. Such regimes would limit poor countries’ access to the knowledge that they need for their development – and would deny life-saving generic drugs to the hundreds of millions of people who cannot afford the drug companies’ monopoly prices.

Intellectual-property rights are rules that we create – and that are supposed to improve social well-being. But unbalanced intellectual-property regimes result in inefficiencies – including monopoly profits and a failure to maximize the use of knowledge – that impede the pace of innovation. And, as the Myriad case shows, they can even result in unnecessary loss of life.