It is undisputed that education is instrumental both for socio-economic development and the enjoyment of other fundamental human rights. In particular, a tertiary education is very critical for less developed countries (LDCs) such as Ethiopia where education is considered a vital tool for sustainable development. Nonetheless, a quality tertiary education depends, inter alia, upon sufficient access to most copyrighted learning materials through a balanced copyright system with adequate room for flexibility. In fact, the tension between copyright protection and the right to education is integral to the global debate between intellectual property and human rights regimes. Despite its compelling socio-economic needs and its human rights obligation that dictate a broader room for flexibility, Ethiopia has adopted a very restrictive copyright system with a narrow set of limitations and exceptions (L&Es) for education. Further, both its copyright and criminal laws prescribe severe criminal sanctions for any act of copyright infringement. In so doing, Ethiopia has taken a legislative approach that exacerbates the problems related to both TRIPs’ implementation and access to learning materials. In the absence of a concrete step to rethink the approach, the effective utilisation of the constrained exception for education will be further undermined by TRIPs’ criminal enforcement in disregard of the socio-economic contexts of the country.
African Journal of International and Comparative Law – Edinburgh University Press
Published: May 1, 2021