Will Proposed Pan-Africa Intellectual Property Organization Enable The West To Impose Its Monopolies?
from the what's-in-it-for-Africans? dept
Back in May, Techdirt pointed to a presentation from Mike Palmedo listing a wide range of research that demonstrates the lack of a connection between policies introducing stricter IP laws or enforcement and economic growth or innovation. Apparently, the African Union Scientific, Technical and Research Commission didn't get around to reading that post, since it has produced a draft statute for the creation of a new Pan-Africa Intellectual Property Organization that seems based entirely on assuming this link exists.
Here's how Brook K. Baker, a US law professor specializing in this area, describes these plans over on infojustice.org:
The statute, drafted by true believers of IP-maximalist ideology, proposes to establish a region-wide intellectual property organization with the sole agenda of expanding IP rights, strengthening enforcement, harmonizing regional legislation, and eventually facilitating the granting of IP monopolies by a central granting authority that may well be legally binding on Member States.
One reason the proposal is so bad is that, once again, all the benefits flow to rightsholders at the expense of users:
Throughout the proposed legislation, there is not one reference to achieving a balance between the interests of rightholders and users of technology and creative endeavors. There is not a word on preserving permitted limitations or exceptions to IPRs or controlling misuse of IP monopolies. There is not a single commitment to withstanding pressures from the US and EU for ever expanding intellectual property rights that are longer, stronger and broader nor for the draconian enforcement obligations that suppress legitimate competition and impose costly border, criminal, and civil enforcement obligations on Africa taxpayers.
The draft will be considered at a meeting of African science and technology ministers in the Republic of Congo in November. If you want to read the details, the proposed text is available (as a Microsoft Word file) from the Intellectual Property Watch site.
It's particularly disappointing that this hugely retrogressive move should be proposed at a time when African innovation is really starting to take off, with a number of tech hubs emerging across the continent. The present proposals seem likely to throttle those exciting developments, because they will impose a neo-colonial IP framework on Africa that will see it ruthlessly exploited by Western companies thanks to their copyright and patent monopolies, just as its physical resources were expropriated in the 19th century.