The negotiation of the Intellectual Property Protocol of the African Continental Free Trade Area offers an opportunity to shape laws across the continent to support education, research and development. IFLA and AfLIA have set out ten principles for negotiators to bear in mind to make this happen.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has made clear how important it is to have laws in place that allow libraries to carry on with their missions using digital tools.

With connectivity improving – although clearly not fast enough – the potential for libraries to provide digital services is growing.

However, this is held back when there is a block, or simply uncertainty, about the possibility to lend, copy or share works online, replicating physical services in a digital world. These are activities which do not give rise to additional payments in the physical world, and so are not suitable for licensing in the digital.

As IFLA’s analysis of laws has underlined, Africa has the lowest – or among the lowest – prevalence of the copyright exceptions required to make this possible.

The negotiation of the Intellectual Property Protocol of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) provides an important opportunity to improve the situation.

It has the potential to bring Africa’s copyright laws up to date, and to realise the potential for learning, research, culture and development, including in the type of difficu;t conditions we are experiencing today.

As a result, IFLA and African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) have delivered a letter to the Secretary General of AfCFTA, setting out ten actions that they can take.

These include:

  1. Ensure a minimum set of exceptions and limitations to copyright
  2. Promote a flexible norm allowing for the law to evolve in line with technology
  3. Ensure laws are technology neutral
  4. Ensure exceptions and limitations have cross-border effect, as a stepping stone to a global legal instrument
  5. Ensure exceptions and limitations cannot be overridden by contracts or technological protection measures
  6. Provide a solution to the orphan and out-of-commerce works problem.
  7. Protect libraries against liability when acting in good faith
  8. Clarify where documents are not subject to copyright protection
  9. Encourage the development of independent, well-governed collecting societies which respect limitations and exceptions
  10. Implement the Marrakesh Treaty fully across the continent

We will continue to work with the AfCFTA secretariat and governments in order to ensure that the agreement can truly serve to support sustainable development for all.

Download the letter as a pdf.