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Key Copyright Issues in African Distance Education: A South African Case Study

Distance Education Volume 32, Number 2, ISSN 0158-7919


This report draws primarily on the results of the recently concluded African Copyright and Access to Knowledge (ACA2K) Project, which investigated copyright and access to learning materials in face-to-face, distance education (DE), and dual-mode tertiary educational institutions in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda (Armstrong, de Beer, Kawooya, Prabhala, & Schonwetter, 2010). The project found that the copyright laws of these eight countries fail to facilitate meaningful access to learning materials generally and particularly in the DE context (Armstrong et al., 2010, p. 310). Although this report focuses on South Africa, it is worth noting that other developing countries, both within and beyond Africa, appear to face similar issues. For example, similar findings have emerged from research conducted in the Asia Pacific region (Consumers International, 2006). Copyright law currently raises major issues for DE provision in South Africa, as it does not adequately cater for institutional needs. These issues include the costs and administrative overheads attendant on acquiring copyright permissions and the compromised quality of course materials where institutions are unable to obtain requisite copyright permissions. National legislative reforms are required to create meaningful educational use exceptions that permit multiple reproductions, archiving, performance, display, digitization, online publication, and the compilation of multimedia works. These reforms must be within the confines of binding international agreements. As legislative reforms are often long in the making, educational institutions might consider relying on and producing more open educational resources (OER) while taking the necessary care to avoid copyright infringement. To achieve this, DE providers with limited expertise, funds, and resources may need to rely on support from organizations such as the South African Institute for Distance Education, through its OER Africa Initiative, UNESCO, and the Commonwealth of Learning. (Contains 1 table.)


Ncube, C.B. (2011). Key Copyright Issues in African Distance Education: A South African Case Study. Distance Education, 32(2), 269-275. Retrieved March 5, 2021 from .

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