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IP, free software and patents in the African spotlight

By   |  July 18, 2005

An online discussion aimed at raising awareness of critical issues around intellectual property rights for Africa and to provide an overview of existing legal processes and tools will begin this week and run until August 21. On the agenda will be free software, copyleft alternatives to traditional property rights and pretecting indigenous knowledge, among others.

The forum will be hosted by the Center for International ICT Policy for West and Central Africa (CIPACO), the Collaboration for International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa and the UK Department for International Development\’s Catia programme.

Organisers says the intention of the four week-long email discussion is to raise awareness and discuss alternatives to the current intellectual property situation, as well as to \”facilitate exchange and collaboration between individuals and organisations working in this field. Based on the discussion, a short summary report, including a number of recommended activities, will be prepared in English and French.\”

The discussion will be conducted by expert moderators from a range of organisations, including the Consumer Project on Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The discussion will be hosted at〈=en.

Week 1 (20 – 26 July): General overview – what is at stake for Africa? General overview of IPR in the information society; the traditional role of copyright and patents; issues in developing countries; pros and cons of IPR enforcement for developing countries.

Week 2 (27 July – 2 August): International IPR mechanisms Introduction and discussion of existing legal instruments and relevant organisations, including WTO TRIPS, TRIPS Plus, WIPO Internet Treaties, Free Trade Agreements that include IPR, etc.

Week 3 (3 – 9 August): Applications of IPR in Africa Free/Open Source Software; digital rights management (DRM); learning materials; protection of local content and indigenous knowledge; relevance and use of IPR laws for local creative industries, etc.

Week 4 (10 – 16 August): Alternatives to the existing IPR regimes Copyleft — turning copyright upside down; Creative Commons and other open access initiatives; WIPO development agenda and Geneva Declaration; the impact of IPR infringement.

Week 5 (17 – 21 August): Wrap up, conclusions and recommendations Discussion of what action can be taken with regard to national, regional and international IPR policy.

Organisers will provide a reading list ahead of each topic to give participants a solid grounding in each of the issues.

To encourage collaboration and exchange across language and regional boundaries in Africa, the discussion will be conducted in French and English simultaneously. Translations or summaries of “important” mails would be provided every 24 hours and there will also be links to automatic translation tools.


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