Helen Turvey

Independence within the Electoral Commision

Posted in Uncategorized by Helen Turvey on August 22, 2008

My new friend Aslam Rafee (CTO of the DST) has been hanging out in our office this morning before Open Everything this afternoon.   He has pointed out one of the most incredible pieces of democracy I have ever seen.  The so called ‘Independent Electoral Commission’ do not allow you to access information through their site if you do not have propriety software.

The (not so) welcome page:

So much for human rights and access to knowledge….

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Intellectual Property Rights

Posted in Uncategorized by Helen Turvey on May 8, 2008

April saw the official launch of the African Copyright & Access to Knowledge (ACA2K) website and Research Methodology.

The ACA2K Project is probing the relationship between national copyright environments and access to hard-copy and digital learning materials in 8 African countries. The project is specifically conducted within an access to knowledge (A2K) framework – a framework which regards the protection and promotion of user access as one of the central objectives of copyright law.

The Methodology Guide acts as roadmap for this project’s research and policy engagement, and is also openly licensed under CC-BY-SA to allow others to reuse it as guideline for similar studies in their own countries. We need to understand the actual usage and restrictions placed on these materials if we are ever to enable them to be as freely available as they were originally intended to be.

We join the IDRC in supporting this initiative that is managed by the Wits University LINK Centre in Johannesburg.

We hosted two stakeholder workshops, one each in Johannesburg and the other in Cape Town, as part of the South African Open Copyright Review. Like ACA2K, this project is conducted within an access to knowledge (A2K) framework. The workshops provided an introduction for interested parties on critical points relating to access to knowledge and the South African Copyright Act and was well attended by academics, artists, industry representatives and lawyers alike.

The real engagement with these issues will be taking place online to allow a broad base of input and discussion. We are inviting everyone with an interest in access to knowledge to join the discussion by visiting the wiki and making their voice heard on the community portal.

We also released our annual IP Briefing ahead of World IP Day (World IP Day briefing) on 26 April, highlighting some of the successes and challenges faced in access to knowledge and IP in the past year and mentioning what lies ahead. These included congratulations to the SA government for the release of the Ministerial Interoperability Operating Standards (MIOS) and to SABS, the South African standards body, for joining standards bodies in Brazil, India and China in resisting the global campaign to make the Microsoft created OOXML specification into a second document standard.

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Intellectual Property Rights

Posted in Uncategorized by Helen Turvey on April 10, 2008

What we do in this area:

“Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) were originally instituted to encourage the creation and invention of public goods for the benefit of society by allowing creators and inventors to protect their intellectual property. However, IPR has become overly restrictive in recent times as corporate interests have led to an ever increasing demand for lock-down on rights.


The Shuttleworth Foundation supports initiatives that call for the establishment of national and global IPR regimes that seek an appropriate balance between encouraging innovation and benefiting society, the original purpose of creating the rights. “

This month’s highlights:

South Africa’s standards making body sub-committee on open document formats again rejected OOXML as an ISO standard, a decision in which the Foundation’s participation was decisive. OOXML was however still approved as a ISO standard through a fast track process at ISO this month

The decision comes despite it being rejected by some of the worlds most populous and economically developing countries, various concerns about the technical quality of the standard and amid rumours of irregularities in national voting processes. Mark Shuttleworth commented on the process in his blog and on the results in the media, as did Andrew Rens.

We commend the South African standards making body for adhering to the decision of the sub-committee and supporting a single document standard. Perhaps it is time to have a Southern (BRICS) voice, an answer to the west when they demand and decree standards and IP regimes that do not work in the developing world.
Andrew Rens, IPR Fellow at the Foundation, participated in the EDGE IP Research Network and a
workshop in Hong Kong, where he presented a paper on ‘Treaty Provisions on Minimum Exceptions and Limitations for Education’. The paper, which focusses on substantive changes to international copyright law in the interest of education, will be published online in June.

Andrew also went to the Yale A2K Academy Planning Meeting in New York. The meeting, at which Southern researchers were well represented, explored ways to develop a forward thinking, pro-active global research community around Access to Knowledge (A2K) issues. This is a promising initiative and we will follow post-meeting developments closely.

Participating in these events has raised the necessity of increasing A2K research capacity in SA, and importance of co-operation with Brazil and India.

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