The Right to Research in Africa

EIFL participates in three-year project contributing to public interest copyright policy at WIPO

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The team representing EIFL at WIPO SCCR/42.

EIFL was a partner in an international project contributing to public interest copyright policy at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to promote access to knowledge and the right to research.

EIFL’s role in the project was to coordinate advocacy in Africa. We worked with Dr Dick Kawooya, University of South Carolina, to organize events and activities, support domestic copyright law reform in six countries in Africa, and we engaged at WIPO to advance the international agenda on copyright limitations and exceptions (L&Es). We also established an Advisory Group of African experts to advise on project activities and copyright developments in the region.

The international project addresses the lack of global norms to promote access to and use of research materials in the shift toward digital research methodologies, such as text and data mining, preservation by cultural heritage institutions and online teaching, learning and research, and the lack of international legal standards permitting cross-border uses of such material.

It produces high impact research, connects a global academic network to an advocacy network of researchers, libraries and digital rights activists, and it supports regional leaders in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America with a shared goal of promoting copyright reform to achieve a fair and balanced copyright system.

The project ‘Contributing to Public Interest Copyright Policy at WIPO Promoting Access to Knowledge and the Right to Research' is managed by the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) at American University Washington College of Law and funded by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.


2021 - 2023


  • Advocating for access to knowledge and the right to research at WIPO.
  • Participating in WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) and the annual WIPO Assemblies.
  • Raising awareness among policy makers about issues and challenges faced by libraries in delivering education, research and information services to library users.
  • Contributing to national copyright law reform in Africa by providing input into copyright laws undergoing processes of amendment.
  • Building the capacity of stakeholders in Africa in support of a fair and balanced copyright system, and connecting African stakeholders with a global network of civil society advocates and legal academics.


  • Co-organized a major regional conference in Africa: in 2023, EIFL co-organized a major regional conference ‘A Right to Research in Africa? A Week of Debates on Copyright and Access to Knowledge’ in South Africa, attended by over 280 legal academics, researchers, librarians, policy-makers and Geneva-based diplomats. It was the first time these diverse groups, connected by a common interest in copyright, came together to debate the copyright framework needed to support modern research in Africa.
  • Supported adoption of a work programme on copyright limitations and exceptions (L&Es) at WIPO:  EIFL supported the adoption of a new work programme on copyright L&Es proposed by the African Group at WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). The work programme was adopted by member states in 2023 at SCCR/43. It provides structure and direction to the work of the committee on L&Es, and it sets out three priority areas - preservation by libraries, archives and museums, and the use of preserved materials; online teaching, learning and research; and consideration of how people with disabilities (other than print disabilities) can benefit from Marrakesh Treaty rights.
  • Supported improved limitations and exceptions in the proposed WIPO broadcast treaty: EIFL supported the improvement of limitations and exceptions (L&Es) in the proposed WIPO treaty for the protection of broadcast organizations. We spoke in favour of L&Es for broadcasting at SCCR sessions, and provided written comments for WIPO consultations aimed at strengthening L&Es to ensure fair access to broadcast content for social, educational and public interest reasons. As a result, L&Es in the draft text have been expanded to include a list of specific exceptions, such as quotation, use for teaching or research, and preservation of the programme material carried by the signal. At SCCR/43, member states agreed that further work was needed on the scope of the exceptions, for example, to make clear that the list of exceptions is merely illustrative and countries would have the freedom to adopt additional exceptions as needed.
  • Contributed to the development of a WIPO Toolkit on Preservation (2023): EIFL contributed to the development of a WIPO Toolkit on Preservation by cultural heritage institutions (document SCCR/43/4), the first of its kind. We participated in a stakeholder consultation on the draft toolkit and we coordinated the submission of written comments by the global library, archives and museums community (LAMs). The toolkit addresses preservation of digital materials and the cross-border nature of preservation activities, among other issues. It is intended as a WIPO-endorsed resource to help lawmakers and their advisers, such as policy experts and cultural heritage professionals, to craft more coherent and authoritative legislation for preservation copying using 21st century digital technologies. A further toolkit on access to preserved materials will be developed.
  • Contributed to improvements in the WIPO Good Practice Toolkit for Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) (2021): EIFL contributed to improvements in the WIPO Good Practice Toolkit for CMOs (2021) aimed at raising standards at CMOs. Issues raised by EIFL and partners during WIPO consultations were addressed in the updated document, for example, supervision and monitoring of CMOs, transparency in revenue distribution, and the role of copyright limitations and exceptions in complementing the licensing of rights.  The CMO Toolkit is intended as a guide for governments and other stakeholders to help design their own infrastructure for collective management, taking into account a country’s particular circumstances. (See EIFL news, Raising standards for CMOs, December 2021.)
  • Contributed to a WIPO study on the impact of COVID-19 on the copyright ecosystem: a WIPO study on the impact of COVID-19 on the copyright ecosystem cites three EIFL resources - Covid lessons-copyright and online learning, E-Resources during COVID-19: copyright and licensing issues’, Case studies submitted by EIFL (Zimbabwe). The study was prepared for an information session on the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Copyright Ecosystem that took place at SCCR/42 in 2022.
  • Co-initiated the A2K Coalition: EIFL was a co-founder of the A2K Coalition (Access to Knowledge), a diverse group of civil society organizations from around the globe that share a vision of a fair and balanced copyright system.
  • Supported copyright reform in six countries
    • Kenya: in Kenya, we have supported copyright reform through advocacy and research. In 2022, we co-hosted national webinars with local partners, Kenya Libraries and Information Services Consortium (KLISC) and the Kenya Copyright Board, on fair dealing exceptions and text and data mining, and in 2023 we co-organized a national seminar, ‘Promoting Access to Knowledge and the Right to Research’ in Nairobi on World IP Day. To explore the role of copyright exceptions as part of an enabling legal environment for research and innovation, we provided a research grant to the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology (CIPIT) at Strathmore University on the ‘Right to Research in Copyright Law - Text and Data Mining’. CIPIT published a White Paper, a blog, and the topic featured in a podcast - Friendly Troll: The right to research and copyright law in Kenya: Text and Data Mining.
    • Namibia: in Namibia, we participated in public consultations on the Copyright Bill (2021). The existing Copyright Act (1994) has no explicit exceptions for libraries or persons with disabilities, and the review is an opportunity to update the law so that people in Namibia can benefit from digital developments that are transforming education, research and information services around the world. We submitted written comments to the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA), and we participated in a National Conference on the bill. Our comments focused on five key areas : education, libraries, fair use/fair dealing, persons with disabilities and duration of protection.
    • Nigeria: in Nigeria, we supported legislative reform that resulted in March 2023 in the adoption of a new copyright law, one of the most progressive laws in the world with respect to libraries. The Copyright Act, 2022 contains new exceptions allowing libraries to make copies of copyright-protected works consistent with their mission (such as supporting education and research, preserving Nigerian cultural heritage and providing inclusive services), a more flexible fair dealing provision enabling activities that might not fall within the scope of specific exceptions, and it safeguards uses of digital content permitted by the new exceptions. Section 25 of the Copyright Act on libraries, archives and museums draws on provisions in the EIFL Draft Law on Copyright. Read our blog, Nigeria: the best copyright law in the world?
    • Senegal: in Senegal, we supported copyright advocacy by local stakeholders. In 2022, we provided an advocacy grant to the Consortium des Bibliothèques de l'Enseignement Supérieur du Sénégal (COBESS), EIFL’s partner, to build support for copyright reform. The project, ‘Contributing to Public Interest Copyright Policy in Senegal and at WIPO: Promoting Access to Knowledge and the Right to Research’ established a coalition of stakeholders (librarians, researchers, disability organizations and legal experts), held a launch workshop with stakeholders and policymakers, organized consultation meetings with government officials, and produced three new documents as a baseline for future advocacy - EIFL’s copyright law analysis, 'What can libraries in Senegal do under Copyright Act, 2008?' (English and French); French translations of EIFL's core exceptions checklist, as well as examples of national legislation.
    • South Africa: in South Africa, EIFL has been supporting the Copyright Amendment Bill (CAB) (2017) during the legislative process. The Bill, that updates the Copyright Act of 1978, supports online education and research, enables libraries and other cultural heritage institutions to preserve South Africa's rich creative expression for future generations, and it will boost library services to persons with print disabilities. In 2021, we wrote to the National Assembly emphasizing that the CAB is consistent with South Africa’s international treaty obligations, and the exceptions are similar to those in many developed countries. In 2023, EIFL delivered a written submission for a public consultation urging the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to adopt the Bill as it is. In September, the NCOP duly adopted the bill (B13F-2017), and it was returned to the National Assembly for final agreement. After that, it will be sent to the President for signing into law. In December 2023, EIFL wrote to the National Assembly urging legislators not to let the schedule for the CAB to slip.
    • Zimbabwe: in Zimbabwe, in 2021 we participated in a public consultation on the draft Copyright Bill (2020) with our partner consortium, the Zimbabwe University Libraries Consortium (ZULC). Our comments mainly concerned technological protection measures and people with print disabilities (allow a library to supply an accessible copy to a beneficiary in Zimbabwe, ensure copies can be made in print and electronic formats, remove the three step test).