On the 14th of November, Uganda and the rest of the world marked DOHA declaration. The declarations adopted by the World Trade Organization requires that its member states have put in place domestic legislation that protect intellectual property rights among others . Uganda like other least developing countries have up to 2013.
However in this report by Patricia Oyella, experts on Intellectaul Property and Human Rights warn that Uganda has not taken advantage of flexibilities provided in the trips agreement which could impede access to education materials. They also warn that the Anti Counterfeit law bill as it is would also affect the right to education.
It is the norm at higher institutions of learning to have photocopying services to help students get access to reading materials. Photocopying costs range from extracts of books, pamphlets to whole books that could go for as high as 200,000 shillings but when photocopied go for a tidy fee of a maximum of 15,000 shillings. But all that could rapidly change if the Country’s Anti counterfeit bill meant to protect domestic manufacturers is made into law in its current state.
An expert on Intellectual Property Rights and Human Rights, Mulumba Moses with the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) says the law could stifle access to education materials. He instead pushes for a provision in the law that could instead of levying criminal sanctions could introduce a user fee that photocopiers could pay.
Yet the time is also ticking on the implementation of the Trips agreement signed ten years ago in 2001 in Doha. Domestically Uganda should implement its laws already passed like the Trade Act and the Copy Right Act after 2013 that protect intellectual property.
The Copyright act currently makes provisions for fair use where users can photocopy for personal use but not for profit. After 2013, government will increasingly come under pressure to crack its whip and education institutions that normally mass photocopy will pay the price. That impact could reduce if the country’s Copyright law were amended to incorporate flexibilities like parallel importation.
The Executive Director of the National Book Trust Uganda, Richard Batambuze knows too well the cost of not having a provision in the law that allows parallel importation.
Its currently estimated that 80% of books at the primary level and 60% at secondary level are produced by local authors…. That percentage dwindles heavily at higher institutions of learning.
Dr. Kakungulu Mayambala with the HumanRights and Peace Center Makerere University, however also argues that even with efforts to improve access to education, some people just abuse the process.
As DOHA agreement reaches its ten year mark, Uganda and other Least Developed Countries hope to push for an extension to allow them put in place legislation that take into account flexibilities in the agreement but with politics often taking the fore in national debates. Countries like Uganda will only move forward once that start looking at Intellectual property rights in terms of Human rights and how they affect the national development plan.