Report of CI's 2010 global meeting on A2K
On 21-22 April, Kuala Lumpur hosted a gathering of 36 Consumers International members and partners for its first global meeting on Access to Knowledge. The meeting included the launches of CI's 2010 IP Watchlist, which has since gained much media interest, and our runaway hit short film When Copyright Goes Bad, which has since accumulated almost 50 thousand page views in English and Spanish.
The first day of the meeting was devoted to reporting to and from our members on the activities of CI's A2K programme over the past year. A brief summary of each of the first day's sessions is presented below, with links to the presentation slides if applicable (in whichever format the originals were provided; usually OpenDocument Format, PDF or Microsoft Powerpoint):
A review of A2K project to date given by the project coordinator, Jeremy Malcolm, described its main outputs and activities: the IP Watch List, the survey on A2K Access Barriers, regional meetings on A2K, an A2K Handbook, country-level research on copyright limitations and exceptions, the A2K film, and advocacy and campaigning activities.
The launch of the 2010 IP Watchlist took place, revealing the placing of 34 countries worldwide on their respect for consumers' interests in copyright law and enforcement practices. An interesting and useful background to this report was given in a presentation on the 300th Anniversary of the Statute of Anne delivered by Saskia Walzel of Consumer Focus, UK.
In place of the scheduled report on the A2K access barrier survey (which was postponed by one day), Najiba el Amrani El Idrissi and Mohamed Abdou Ammor of Atlas Saïs (Morocco) presented in French on The role of stakeholders in the education system and access to knowledge (Le rôle des acteurs du système éducatif dans l’accès à la connaissance).
David Vaile of the University of New South Wales, Australia distributed and presented an interim report on the research he and our member CHOICE are conducting on the effect of Australia's 2006 copyright exceptions to permit time, space and format shifting of works, which suggests that fairer copyright laws increase some consumers' respect for the law. Mention was also given of the similar Israeli research on fair use, though unfortunately our Israeli research partner was unable to present this in person.
Reports on national advocacy and campaigning activities were given from CAI India (on advocacy activities for librarians), CAO Nigeria (conducting a media campaign for awareness-raising on A2K), NCF South Africa (on a viral campaign about the review of the South African Copyright Act), and ZACA Zambia (about its campaign to reduce taxes on books).
At late notice RACE Cameroon and IDEC Brazil could not attend the meeting, but a brief outline of the former's campaign on book prices was given, and IDEC's report on the reform of Brazilian copyright law was presented by Beatriz Garcia-Buitrago of Consumidores Argentinos. Samuel Ochieng of CIN Kenya also gave a presentation on advocacy in Kenya, including a CI-supported workshop in 2009, and new work on access to medicines.
In presenting CI's 2010-2012 Strategic Plan on A2K, the three objectives of CI's work on A2K were described. These objectives are campaigning for more balanced IP laws, providing capacity building to consumers on IP and A2K issues, and upholding human rights in the information society. Expounding upon this third theme, a presentation on Promoting Human Rights in the Information Society was given by Khalilur Rahman Sajal, General Secretary of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh.
Dr Becky Lentz gave an overview of her approach to the evaluation of the A2K project, which involves reporting to our funder Ford Foundation on the lessons of the project for IP and FOE advocacy work, and to Open Society Institute on how its sponsored outputs such as the IP Watchlist have been used in advocacy.
The night concluded with a dinner and movie night, featuring the premiere of When Copyright Goes Bad, as well as screenings of Big Buck Bunny and a special new CI- abridged version of RIP: A Remix Manifesto.
Whereas the first day was designed to showcase and share the work of CI and its members, the second day was more in the nature of a general conference on IP and A2K issues. It was this second day that was most disrupted by the suspension of flights from Europe, with three presentations being cancelled. Nonetheless we still had a very full day, which ran as follows:
Elissa Freeman spoke on Introducing ACCAN and a few ideas, wherein she spoke about her organisation, the new Australian Communications Consumer Action Network. She also gave a run-down of some telecommunications issues of interest to consumers, including the iiNet case in which the Federal Court ruled that ISPs are not obliged to cooperate with rights-holders by disconnecting Internet users for alleged infringements.
Rami Olwan, Research Fellow at the ARC Center of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Australia, spoke on intellectual property and development. His presentation covered the different meanings of "development" in an IP context and a broader context, and about how the WIPO Development Agenda is part of a new way forward to bring the intellectual property system into alignment with the needs of developing countries.
Dr Perihan Abou Zeid of Pharos University, Alexandria, Egypt presented the findings of the African Copyright and A2K (ACA2K) Project: Egypt's Report. She acknowledged that Egypt's poor showing in CI's IP Watchlist was attributable to the few and weak exceptions and limitations in Egypt's copyright law. Egypt also has the dubious distinction of requiring even public domain works to be licensed before they may be legally used.
Dr Karuthan Chinna presented an interim report on CI's A2K access barrier survey, including graphs showing the answers to each of the questions across all countries surveyed. Based on the over 11 thousand responses received, already some significant differences between countries can be observed, but also some common trends.
A very popular session on the Creative Commons-licensed 15Malaysia film series was presented by Pete Teo, Malaysian recording artist and entrepreneur. This included the screening of one of those films, titled Rojak. He also spoke from his own experience in a balanced way about the difficulties that artists face in an age of free digital reproduction.
Access to Knowledge in the Information Society: Reconciling Consumer and Citizen Frameworks in Transnational Rights Advocacy was the next paper delivered by Dr Becky Lentz of McGill University, talking about her research on A2K advocacy from a more academic perspective. This included the screening of activist-produced media. Because this research is ongoing, no link to the presentation is provided here.
Pranesh Prakash of the Center for Internet and Society in Bangalore, India gave a detailed presentation on the pitfalls and limitations of Technological Protection Mechanisms (TPMs), which can be downloaded or viewed online. It included some recommendations some principles a country should follow if it insists on protecting TPMs in its copyright law (most of which, interestingly, are followed by India's current copyright amendment bill).
In his talk on Open infrastructures for open access, Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation outlined how openness unifies a range of fields of human endeavour, beyond just access to knowledge. He also reported to the meeting on the recent development of a Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge in which CI participated.
Finally Eddan Katz of Electronic Frontiers Foundation spoke on Mapping A2K Advocacy: Towards a Coalition Against ACTA. Tying in well with the previous presentation, his talk covered the regulations and institutions, production models and public services, and technologies, that impact upon access to knowledge in a number of regimes, and concluded by addressing the impact of ACTA on the future of access.
Feedback from members (as well as commentary on Twitter) indicates that the meeting was a great success, which we hope to be able to repeat in future years. CI extends its sincere thanks to our members and partners for their active participation in the meeting, as well as for their excellent work in contributing to CI's activities over the past year.
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