sticky_yesAccess to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property
1267 days ago

A new book on Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property has been published by MIT Press.  It is downloadable free of charge. 


As James Boyle of Duke University and author of The Public Domain states :
"This a must-have for university libraries, but it is also something that will be read intently, tactically, and sometimes uneasily, in venues ranging from WIPO to the university classroom. Highly recommended."



Denise Nicholson

1 November 2010

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sticky_yesGlobal Research Report: Africa
1421 days ago

The Global Research Report on Africa 2010 provides useful information about research trends in African countries, as well as problems and challenges on the continent.  The Feasibility Study on the AfricaConnect Initiative (Dec 2008-Dec 2009) highlights ICT challenges and opportunities in Africa and implications for African research.


Although copyright does not feature in this report, the copyright laws in most African countries do not address their domestic or developmental situations and these laws create barriers to access to knowledge and resource-sharing.  The research done by the African Copyright & Access  to Knowledge (ACA2K) Project from 2007-2010 confirms that current copyright laws in 8 study countries, including South Africa, are not facilitating access to knowledge - in fact, they are creating barriers and are impacting on education, research and development in general on those countries and others. . 


Many African countries are reviewing their copyright laws, and it is hoped that they will include adequate and appropriate limitations and exceptions for research, education, libraries and persons with sensory-disabilities.  Many of  these countries are members of the Africa Group, and now the new Development Agenda Group, and they support the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)'s Development Agenda, so they should be amending their national copyright laws accordingly. 



Denise Nicholson

31 May 2010

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sticky_yesIP Amendment Bill, 2010 (Traditional Knowledge) - Stakeholders Ignored!
1428 days ago

On 20 May 2010, the Intellectual Property Amendment Bill, 2010 (Traditional Knowledge) was presented to the Portfolio Committee for Trade and Industry by the Department of Trade and Industry.  Despite objections and recommendations made by many stakeholders, including the educational and library sectors, through written submissions and at various public hearings around South Africa, the Bill is virtually the same as the original version published for comment in 2008.  Public hearings scheduled for May 2010 have now been postponed until July 2010 (dates unknown at this stage).



Apart from not including any limitations and exceptions for research, education, libraries and persons with sensory-disabilities, it fails to address a number of key issues and queries that stakeholders across the board have raised about the Bill, e.g. vague definitions for traditional knowledge works and indigenous communities, problem clauses, ownership by a National Trust ; fixation issues around folklore, and many others.  


The results of the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) commissioned by the Presidency and the Department of Trade and Industry during 2009 have not yet been made public.  For the sake of transparency, and before this Bill proceeds any further, it is incumbent on the Department of Trade and Industry to make the RIA open to the public and to inform the public why their recommendations and objections have been ignored to date.




Denise Nicholson
24 May 2010

This article is the personal view of the author, Denise Rosemary Nicholson ( and does not purport to be the view/opinion of her institution or any other organisation or individual

sticky_yesResearch Outputs of African Copyright & Access to Knowledge (ACA2K) Project Now Available!
1656 days ago

The African Copyright & Access to Knowledge (ACA2K) Project  has been probing the relationship between national copyrght environments and access to knowledge in 8 African countries, namely, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.The project has been probing this relationship within an access to knowledge (A2K) framework - a framework which regards the protection/promotion of user access as one of the central objectives of copyright law. 

Briefing Papers are available as follows:

5 of the 8 Country Reports and Executive Policy Briefs are available:
        Denise Nicholson
        8 October 2009


sticky_yesModel Copyright Law Launched online
1693 days ago

Electronic Information for Libraries (eIFL) has launched its digital version of its Model Copyright Law.  This Model law was based on the  Model Copyright Law of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and has been expanded to accommodate appropriate limitations and exceptions for libraries and education. eIFL sought legal advice from intellectual property experts around the world.  This Model Law provides a framework for Governments, especially in developing countries, to review their copyright laws and to adopt more balanced national copyright laws.

As Kevin Smith states in his blog article on this model law, "Its clear set of definitions and the explanatory notes that accompany each exception and limitation make it ideal for gaining a synoptic view of the state of international copyright law.  Most important is the consistent focus on the public interest and the socially beneficial purpose that copyright law is intended to serve".

Copyright limitations and exceptions are now a key item on the WIPO Development Agenda and WIPO has commissioned a number of studies in recent years on copyright limitations and exceptions. In 2008, a study on copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives was done by Dr. Kenneth Crews.  During 2009, five researchers in different regions of the world were commissioned by WIPO to do a study on limitations and exceptions for education.  

In the African Copyright and Access to Knowledge (ACA2K) Project's preliminary findings, (Briefing Paper 1 and Briefing Paper 2) it was found that all eight study countries in Africa, (i.e. South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, Morocco, Uganda, Egypt and Senegal) were compliant with, or had stricter copyright laws than were required by international copyright agreements.  A study by the Consumer International in 2006 showed that the copyright laws in all eleven study countries in Asia far exceeded the requirements of international copyright agreements. Limitations and exceptions, particularly for development purposes, had not been promoted by WIPO in its assistance to these countries.

eIFL's Model Copyright Law is therefore very timeous. It offers model limitations and exceptions that are designed to facilitate access to knowledge and the public interest.  It also provides a model for developing countries which have few, if any, limitations and exceptions to facilitate access to knowledge.  The ACA2K preliminary findings also showed that infringing activities, rather than copyright law, were facilitating access to knowledge, particularly learning materials, in the eight study countries. 

Denise Nicholson

1 September 2009

sticky_yesDoes South Africa need a Public Lending Right?
1750 days ago

The Academic and Non-Fiction Authors Association (ANFASA) is proposing to introduce a Public Lending Right  (PLR) into South African libraries, according to an article by Dugie Standeford of IP Watch. See article at This was also announced at a recent DALRO workshop in May 2009, where the Director of ANFASA said that academic authors and reference works would also be included in this proposal.

A public lending right (PLR) is a right of compensation granted to authors for the 'potential' loss of sales from their works, which are available on loan in public libraries, the majority of which are fiction works.  In other words, a PLR is a 'subsidy' paid out of public funds to authors whose books are lent from public libraries.  Calculation of the PLR levy is either made on the basis of how often an author's works are lent out, or payment per copy of an author's work held in libraries, whether or not it is borrowed, i.e. on library holdings.
About 41 developed countries to date have recognized a Public Lending Right in their legislation, either through their copyright legislation or through library-related legislation. The UK has a separate Public Lending Right Act.  However, only 28 countries have implemented the PLR, some with reluctance too.  Some less wealth countries in the EU objected strongly to the PLR and a few countries have even been sued for issues around implementation of the PLR.  The US does not have a lending right, which shows that it is not necessary for a thriving creative culture.
Since public libraries are funded by the public through their taxes, they are mandated to provide access to their collections to the public and to provide loan facilities to facilitate access to knowledge. As the IFLA Committee on Copyright and Other Legal Matters (CLM) states in its Background Paper on Public Lending Right, the oft held assumption that primary sales of authors’ works may be lost through library use is mistaken. There is no empirical evidence to show any link between the use of works in public library collections and possible loss by authors. Not only are libraries themselves major purchasers of authors’ works, but library users often encounter an authors’ works for the first time in a public library, which can lead to further primary sales, or referrals to others to purchase the works. In fact, libraries and authors enjoy a positive symbiotic relationship.  
Authors receive free marketing from libraries, particularly in developing countries, in a number of ways, e.g. through ‘new acquisition lists’, ‘new books stands’, ‘current awareness services’, ‘children’s reading hours’, ‘adult book clubs’, ‘readings by authors or poets’, ‘book or author of the month promotions’, ‘exhibitions’, ‘selected reading lists’, circulation of promotional pamphlets, etc. And, most importantly, the ‘advertisement of authors’ names and works in print and electronic library catalogues and national catalogues, e.g. SABINET and Publishers’ catalogues.    
Libraries are also the main purchasers of important reference works in analogue and digital formats. These works are generally very expensive and their target market is libraries, not the public. Apart from basic dictionaries, maps and encyclopedia-type works, few, if any reference works would be purchased or even used, if it were not for them being housed in libraries. Authors are not likely to suffer loss of sales of these works from public lending. In fact, libraries provide a ‘captive audience’ for these works, as they are generally only for ‘in-library use’ and not for loan.  
So why is ANFASA promoting this right, when there is no international obligation for it, and no other developing country has it? Why does it plan to include reference works, which are not part of public lending? Why propose a lending right for academic authors when all other models in developed countries, barring Australia, exempt academic authors.   Australia has a separate lending right for educational institutions. It has had a chequered history and only this year has funding become ongoing.  This right is administered separately from the lending right for public libraries.
Why would academic authors need a lending right, when they do not depend solely on the sales of their writings and they have other avenues of income or reward? For example, salaries, research grants, NRF publication rewards, fellowships, consulting fees, sales and royalties (generally higher than non-fiction and fiction authors), income from revised editions and prescribed textbooks, IP royalties (through copyright licences and patents), conference honoraria, travel opportunities, book launches, study incentives, collaborative research funding, status, and open access publishing.
In South Africa, the perceived ‘loss of sales’ in academic works has not been proved. Because of the excessive prices of academic works, many learners cannot afford to purchase them and they depend on those housed in libraries. In fact, if they were not accessible in libraries, they would not be used at all. The main sales of academic works are from library purchases or prescribed textbooks.  If learners cannot afford them, educational institutions sometimes have to buy multiple copies or include extracts in coursepacks. Authors and publishers are then compensated through copyright fees collected by the rights organization, DALRO.   How can there be a loss in sales, if the work was too expensive and wasn’t going to be bought in the first place? By their works not being accessible in libraries though, there would indeed be a loss in readership, referrals and citations for the authors themselves. Academic authors therefore depend on libraries as the main buyers and promoters of their works.
Although librarians support authors and are not against the lending right in principle, IFLA and the Electronic Information for Libraries ( do not promote a lending right for developing countries. IFLA’s Position Paper states that this right should be rejected in the greater public interest in situations where a country cannot afford to fund a lending right, without diverting resources from more fundamental public services". South Africa is one of these countries.

“The first priority is that monies allocated for cultural and educational purposes should be used to provide wide access to education and the development of a good public library service and infrastructure. Libraries must be able to focus their budgets on improving literacy rates and addressing basic educational needs, providing students with access to modern learning resources and developing innovative services to bring needed information to rural or underprivileged communities e.g. healthcare, agricultural techniques and democratic participation." 
Libraries in South Africa have limited budgets and desperately need financial resources to maintain existing services and to provide new resources and buildings to the citizens of South Africa, particularly in rural areas and informal settlements. Some libraries and resource centres depend entirely on donations. Without adequate library resources and literacy training programmes, a reading culture will never happen in South Africa. If Government subsidizes a PLR scheme (and should it be subsidizing one occupation over others in the commercial sector?), it will just have less to allocate to other more pressing priorities and ultimately, libraries will get a smaller ‘piece of the budgetary cake’.
The current economic climate and serious socio-economic situation in South Africa are not conducive to the introduction or maintenance of a lending right.  South Africa should also be cautionary in setting a precedent for other developing countries. Even less wealthy countries in the EU have not welcomed the PLR for various reasons.
Before any lending right scheme is introduced in South Africa, it is recommended that the SA Department of Arts and Culture commissions the library and educational sector, preferably through the African Copyright and Access to Knowledge Project (ACA2K), to do empirical research to investigate the merits of such a scheme, in the context of a developing country. Also the implications of digital technology and open access publishing would need to be studied, as the lending right system as it is today, is likely to undergo some major changes in the not too distant future.
What is interesting is, that despite our economy and despite not having a lending right in South Africa, authors still continue to write - for the love of writing and communicating to others!
 Denise Nicholson - 6 July 2009

sticky_yesPortals on Copyright and Plagiarism at Wits
1775 days ago

Copyright and plagiarism issues have become a real headache for tertiary institutions today.  The ease of cutting and pasting from the Internet has increased the number of copyright infringements and acts of plagiarism.  Users of the Internet tend to think that everything is free. This is not the case!

Although there may be millions of free items available on the Web, there are just as many works protected by copyright law, licences, subscriptions and technological protection measures which restrict access to that digital content.  Webpages generally provide information about copyright and usage conditions.  Click-wrap and shrink-wrap licences, as well as proprietary or open source licences determine how digital material may be used.  When using others' works, even if they are freely available, due acknowledgement must be given to the authors/creators.

To assist lecturers and students in dealing with copyright and plagiarism issues, Denise Nicholson, Copyright Services Librarian at Wits, has an online Copyright Information Webpage, as well as a Portal on Copyright and Related Issues  and a Plagiarism Portal.  Linked to both of these Portals is the Journalism and Media Studies Portal, These resources are all available on the Wits Library website.


Denise Nicholson

11 June 2009

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Previous Posts

Remember to Celebrate Open Access Week 19-23 October 2009
1648 days ago

Join millions of people and organizations around the globe in celebrating Open Access Week from 19-23 October 2009.  Think of new ways you can promote Open Access in your work, research or teaching environments!!

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Draft Regulations to the IPR from Public Financed Research and Development Act
1826 days ago

Draft Regulations to the South African IPR from Public Financed Research Act were recently published for public comment . The closing date for submissions to the Department of Science & Technology is 8 May 2009.

Institutions and researchers are invited to peruse the Draft to see what implications the Regulations will have for their research activities in and outside South Africa.

In his blog, ex Africa semper aliquid novi, Andrew Rens of the Shuttleworth Foundation suggests that Regulation 12 is unconstitutional. What do you think? Have your say. Submit your comments to your institution's Legal Office or Research Office or submit them directly to the SA Department of Science and Technology Private Bag X894 Pretoria, 0001, or c/o Building 53, CSIR Campus, 627 Meiring Naude Road Brummeria Pretoria, 0184, Fax No: 086 685 0663 or
Attention: Tsitso Daniel Rasenyalo


Denise Nicholson
20 April 2009

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"Introducing Copyright: a plain language guide to copyright in the 21st century".
1838 days ago

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in Canada has just launched its publication "Introducing Copyright – a plain language guide to copyright in the 21st century"

The author, Julien Hofman, reminds readers that " this book is a map, not a guidebook. It introduces you to copyright and its important features and explains how they fit together."

Topics covered are: Copyright History; International Copyright Agreements; Copyright Works; Holders' Rights; Users' Rights; Copyright Licences; Collecting Societies; Open Licences; Digital Rights Management; Software Protection; Traditional Knowledge and Copyright Reform.

Denise Nicholson

8 April 2009


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Weblog of: Copyright & A2K Issues

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