Intellectual Property Rights
In Flash of Genius (See Review), a biographical film story of FORD’s 1953 war on infringement, in the adoption of the Intermittent Wiper (your car wiper), an american jury ruled in the favour of a retired Physics professor, because he swayed them with the argument that Shakespeare’s works despite picking from words common to the English language, were actually inherently private and inventive because he was the first to arrange them in the order in which we revel today. He argued, that he too needed to be compensated by FORD, for “stealing” his idea of the Wiper, despite writing down the constituent parts of the Wiper, and their functionality and handing these over to the FORD Motor Company.
In high school, the current Makerere University Chancellor was made a god of economics based on works that he placed in pamphlets and these went about as near gospel truth in the study and revision for Economics, both at Advanced Level, as well as for some First Year Economics Courses. Whereas Dr. Sentamu has a right to these works as derivative works, and as such deserves, and reserves the right to the Intellectual Property therein, the actual knowledge contained in these books cannot be wholly attributed to him. Alas, Dr, Sentamu cannot claim to be the originator of this knowledge. Or can he?
In Ugandan Universities, a large amount of student pocket money is spent on photocopying lecture notes. Many an office printer in the average work place does some photocopying for one or 2 students, at least once a week. Frankly, one could say the University, as we know it, could not exist without photocopying as we know it. But have you ever actually wondered what it would be like to study without Photocopying?
You see, in the 16th Century, the battle lines around copying were drawn – and 3000 people died. So lets not take it lightly at all. Read the amazing Story Here
In the eyes of every author, it is their solemn hope that they will retain moral rights to the content in their written works, BUT also, that they will acquire economic rights when we buy the book. So When we copy the book, not only do we infringe on their rights – as we often don’t ask for permission, we also directly affect their income, because we then wont go out to buy an original copy of the book. YET, when the author rights that book, he cannot then stand in the way of our right to enjoy the access to the information contained therein. In fact, one can argue that if he didn’t want us to know about it, he might not have written the book in the first place.
Ugandan Copyright & Neighboring Rights Act of 2006, awards copyright to such an author, for the rest of their lifetime (or the lifetime of the last surviving co-author) plus 50 years. As it stands, even the works of Okot B’itek are not yet public domain works. So every copy you have made has in fact been illegal, and you should be in jail, fined, or both! Thankfully, that’s the Penal Code.
So when can you copy, and do so rightly? You need permission from the author. Simple as eating matooke. Yes, even when the author took their works from Shakespeare’s the law protects them as Derivative works, so you still need permission. Alternatively, the author could make copying of their works allowed. So we should in fact consider the moral obligation to CEASE, immediately, ANY and ALL unauthorized copying of literary works.
I could end here, but then you will ask what about the inherent right to knowledge – and the fact that access to that knowledge should be an implied right. And some would argue at this stage, that if the Right to Education is a gazetted Human Right, then the right to access to Educational Materials is implied. Well, does that take away the Intellectual Right that the author had on this content? Certainly not. So how do we cater for both sides?
At the CEHURD Media Training on Intellectual Property Rights, I am learning how to navigate the vast legal ocean to be able to answer this question in a way that would satisfy both parties. But if the world’s Least Developing Countries do not succeed in getting an extension to the TRIPS Agreement (part of the laws under the World Trade Organization, for which Uganda is a member), then in fact this law will come into play, and very soon, as soon as 1st July 2013, it could be completely illegal to photocopy!
TRIPS Agreement – http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/t_agm1_e.htm
CEHURD – http://www.cehurd.org/
FOSSFA – http://www.fossfa.net
Intellectual Property is an evolving subject, locally and internationally. 2013 has seen some interesting Moses Mulumba the Director of CEHURD, (website) passionately introduces various aspects of Intellectual Property in Uganda, and the path that this has taken since the first Media Training Fellowsip in 2012. CEHURD aims to mentor and support jounalists, from main stream media as well as online reporters (and bloggers), in how they can report on links between social welfare aspects and Intellectual Property.
Over 2 days, 15 Ugandan jounalists will be holed up at the shores of Lake Victoria in a packed 2 day training.
Richard Hasunira, a local communications consultant started the day off with some ideas on the role of Media in reporting Intellectual Property. Richard stresses how Intellectual Property Rights should not stifle in any way, all Human Rights, and specifically, access to Medicines, Access to Educational Materials as well as Access to farming developments that enhance food security. Richard challenged the participants on their cardinal functions – to inform, to educate, and to entertain – to grow these into the moral obligation to promote Human Rights. And to make sure they report on restrictions that block access to new knowledge, or new innovations.