The University of Cape Town’s Intellectual Property (IP) Unit strives to add an African voice to the global debate on IP-related issues. Our focus is on examining the link between IP, innovation, development and public policy. We aim at creating a leading IP programme in Africa that translates cutting edge research into excellent teaching and increases the number of highly-skilled African IP experts. Important issues range from the way in which we access and share knowledge to strategies how to commercialise inventions and avoid misappropriation. IP is a key determinant of human development, economic growth and competitiveness; and IP rules impact on various public policy areas including health, research and development, bio-diversity, clean technologies, food security, and education.

CopyrightX:UCT applications now open

copyx The IP Unit is pleased to again present a CopyrightX affiliated course in 2016. CopyrightX:UCT will be administered by UCT Law@Work: Professional Development Project of the Faculty of Law, UCT.

CopyrightX:UCT is a member of the growing CopyrightX Community, a network of affiliated courses offered by several universities and other institutions between January and April of each year. Through a combination of pre-recorded lectures, readings, seminars, live webcasts, and online discussions, the participants in these courses examine and assess the ways in which law seeks to stimulate and regulate creative expression. CopyrightX was developed by Professor William Fisher at Harvard Law School; it is hosted and supported by the HarvardX distance-learning initiative and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. A list of the other participating organisations and additional information concerning this educational initiative is available at

CopyrightX:UCT consists of the Harvard pre-recorded lectures, accompanied by reading materials relating to U.S. and South African copyright law. Nine contact sessions will take place on Wednesdays between 17 February 2016 and 27 April 2016. The classroom seminars will discuss the pre-recorded lectures and will more closely analyse South African Copyright law and the issues faced. The seminars will be taught by Dr. Tobias Schonwetter.

The course is totally free of charge. Applicants must provide a motivation of approximately 400 words stating why they want to participate in CopyrightX:UCT, and how they plan on utilising their knowledge afterwards. Furthermore, applicants must make a commitment to actively participate in the course and attend the weekly seminars at the University of Cape Town.

Applications are open between now and 18 December 2015.  Successful applicants will be notified by 13 January 2016.

For more info and to apply click here.

Open AIR – Call for Case Studies

openairDuring its 3rd phase, Open AIR investigates how open collaborative innovation can help businesses scale up and seize the new opportunities of a global knowledge economy, and which knowledge governance systems will best ensure that the social and economic benefits of innovation are shared inclusively across society as a whole.

Open AIR is now seeking case studies that examine the connection between the practice of collaborative innovation and the processes of knowledge sharing and/or knowledge appropriation through intellectual property rights and other mechanisms. Studies should focus on one or more of Open AIR’s four priority research themes: (1) high technology hubs, (2) informal sector innovation, (3) indigenous and local entrepreneurs, and (4) metrics, laws and policies.

For further information, please visit the Open AIR website. Proposals are due on or before 10 December 2015.

Open Data in Developing Countries: Embedding Open Data Practice

ODDC coverBetween December 2014 and August 2015, members of the IP Unit executed a research project on Open Data in Developing Countries. The World Wide Web Foundation-funded project was part of the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries Phase 2 project, and was titled “Embedding Open Data Practice: Developing indicators on the institutionalisation of open data practice in two African governments”. The final report is now available. The key motivation for conducting the research was that insufficient attention has been paid to the institutional dynamics within governments and how these may be impeding open data practice. In order to address the question of whether open data practice is being embedded, the project undertook a comparison of government open data in South Africa and Kenya.

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IP Unit submits its comments to the DTI concerning the Copyright Amendment Bill

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 16.36.20 PMOn 16 September, the IP Unit submitted comments regarding the DTI’s Copyright Amendment Bill. Our comments are based on an in-depth collaborative analysis carried out by a group of leading international and domestic experts and scholars working in the field of copyright law. Our comments are geared towards facilitating a balanced, modern, sound, coherent and practically relevant copyright regime that complies with relevant international instruments and, even more importantly, sufficiently incentivises and maximises creativity in South Africa through protection and sufficient access for the benefit of society at large. We commend the DTI on a transparent and open stakeholder consultation process and its desire to tackle the difficult task of amending our Copyright Act. Moreover, we generally welcome the proposed introduction of the more flexible fair use doctrine into South Africa’s copyright legislation. However, in order to function in the intended manner, the entire system of copyright exceptions and limitations needs, in our opinion, to be adjusted as proposed in our submission. Our submission is structured as an outline document – it comments on provisions in the Bill that are of particular importance and concern to us. We do not attempt an exhaustive review of the Copyright Bill but rather aim to highlight selected areas of concern.

South African Government Conference Reveals Views On Draft Copyright Bill

ipwatch(by Linda Daniels for IP Watch, published under a CC BY NC SA licence)

Stakeholders from various positions of influence in the realm of intellectual property – including government – put a fine tooth comb through the South African Copyright Amendment Bill at a consultative conference called by the Department of Trade and Industry yesterday.

The one-day conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa on 27 August was called to further inform the refinement process of the bill. The Copyright Amendment Bill was published in the government gazette earlier this month and this opened a 30-day public consultation process. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) subsequently extended that deadline to 16 September.

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Conference Looks At Public Interest In South Africa’s Draft Copyright Bill

ipwatch(by Linda Daniels for IP Watch, published under a CC BY NC SA licence)

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – A conference here this week elicited a robust debate amongst intellectual property stakeholders in South Africa about the objectives of the far-reaching draft Copyright Amendment Bill. The Internet Rights, Cultural Development and Balancing Features in South African Copyright Reform conference was held on 11 August in Pretoria. The one day conference brought together activists, law practitioners, academics and government representatives to unpack the draft amendment bill which was published in the government gazette three weeks ago (IPW, Africa, 28 July 2015). The publishing of the bill opened a 30-day window period for public comments. Tobias Schonwetter, director of the Intellectual Property Unit at the University of Cape Town and regional coordinator for Creative Commons, opened the conference by emphasising that the meeting was focused on the public interest of the bill. “The subject matter of copyright law is knowledge. It is cultural material. Any IP is not an end in itself. The purpose is much more utilitarian,” he said. “How can we retain balance of rights holder and user interests especially in the digital age?” Schonwetter added of the bill: “the general direction is right.” Macdonald Netshitenzhe, chief director of policy and legislation at the Department of Trade and Industry, in his opening address, sketched, amongst other things, the trajectory of the bill.

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Internet Rights, Cultural Development and Balancing Features in South African Copyright Reform

IMG_8956On 27 July 2015, South Africa’s Department of Industry (DTI) published the Copyright Amendment Bill 2015 for public comment. Interested parties have 30 days from the date of publication to submit written comments to the DTI. The IP Unit will submit comments before that deadline. In order to inform relevant stakeholders about the key elements of the Bill and to engage with government officials on issues addressed in the Bill (incl. fair use, educational exceptions, orphan works, improved access for the disabled and anti-circumvention provisions), the IP Unit – together with UNISA, Wits University, the American University Washington College of Law Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, Creative Commons South Africa, and the Cultural Industries Legal and Advisory Centre – hosted a one-day workshop on 11 August 2015 at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria. This timely and highly productive meeting of approximately 50 invited participants was facilitated mainly in an open roundtable format in which various segments of stakeholders and of government participated in open and frank discussions of the bill’s impacts in South Africa, especially on consumers, small-scale creators (such as independent and documentary filmmakers), libraries, educators, people with disabilities and the general public interest. The meeting was supported by Google and the Ford Foundation. The agenda of the meeting is available here. Among other things, the programme included addresses by the DTI’s Macdonald Netshithenze and Google’s Fred von Lohmann.

Natural Justice seeks a Voluntary Intern

naturaljusticeNatural Justice – a Cape Town-based NGO – is seeking a Voluntary Intern to assist in the implementation of the ‘Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems Related to Climate Change and Intellectual Property Rights’ project. This is a Participatory Action Research project in partnership with the IP Unit and Indiana University’s Department of Gender Studies. It is a project of the global Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (OCSDNet). Individuals who are available, full-time or part-time, for periods during August-November 2015 should apply.

More information is available here.

To apply, please email your CV and covering letter clearly explaining your suitability to
cath [at] with the subject line ‘Voluntary Intern’ by 31st July 2015

Open Content Licensing: A Three-Step Guide for Academics

OpenUCT-Licensing-Guide-CoverScholars today exchange a wide range of content in the course of their academic work. In some cases this occurs in the context of formal publication, but a large amount of content is also shared online in teaching and research contexts. As the amount of information available on the internet grows at an exponential rate, so too does the imperative for academics to share and promote their work online in order to boost visibility and attract citation. Within this context, engagement with copyright and content licensing is a key new academic proficiency.

In the formal publication realm, the rise of the open access movement has resulted in a change of approach where academics increasingly retain copyright rather than assigning it to publishers. Higher education institutions are also taking a stand on the issue of copyright transfer in order to protect their investment in knowledge creation and ensure that they have the rights to distribute and exploit the content they produce outside of formal publication channels. The University of Cape Town (UCT) Open Access Policy, for instance, recommends that authors avoid the transfer of copyright to publishers in cases where the publisher does not allow archiving, reuse or sharing of a submitted version of a scholarly publication. Continue reading

Two new OpenUCT Guides on open licensing and impact measurement

OpenUCTStickers_edcomp_icon_0This month, OpenUCT published two new guides on open licensing and impact measurement. The first guide, ‘Open Content Licensing: A Three-Step Guide for Academics‘, aims at enabling individual academics to make informed and purposeful decisions around licensing their work in line with international open access principles. Based on the framework of open content licensing – a legitimate, internationally-recognised legal practice located within the boundaries of copyright law – it has been designed to protect the author against unauthorised forms of content exploitation in the digital realm, and is beneficial to the global user community in that it limits bureaucracy associated with obtaining permissions for re-use. The second guide, ‘Measuring Impact: A Five-Step Guide for Scholarly Units‘, provides five practical steps to professionalise scholarly communication activity, expand current approaches around impact measurement, and generate new forms of usage data. It is is aimed at scholarly units (i.e., research units, academic departments and faculties), but can be adapted for an individual scholar or institutional approach.


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