On 27, 28 and 29 November, IFRRO, WIPO, and the Bureau Béninois du Droit d’Auteur (BUBEDRA) joined forces to launch a new initiative to implement the collective management of reprography in seven countries in North and West Africa.
The participants at the conference © BUBEDRA
The demand for locally-produced books, magazines, newspapers and visual artworks has never been higher, yet, authors and publishers continue to suffer from severe under compensation for the use of their works. Although, millions of copies of their works are made every day in universities, corporations, public administration and copy shops, the mechanisms to legalise and remunerate these reproductions of works are lacking in many countries. This results in under developed book markets, shortage of locally created books in schools and universities, difficult living conditions for creators and the imports of books from other countries, that may be less relevant to the national needs. To remedy this situation, IFRRO, WIPO and BUBEDRA, the CMO of Benin, and six other CMOs across North and West Africa, have decided to embark on a project to implement in each country the proper collective management mechanisms that will allow authors and publishers to receive compensation. This will enable educational and other institutions to legalise the copying of works done in their premises and to offer cheap and legal access to content to their teachers and students.
On 27 November, a launch conference was held in Cotonou, Benin. The audience was drawn from across the educational institutions and the publishing sector in Benin. The Director of Cabinet of the Ministry of Culture and Arts, Eric Totah, and the Director for Books, Koffi Attédé, opened the conference and called on all stakeholders to work together so that the collection of revenues can start soon. Anita Huss-Ekerhult, Counsellor at WIPO’s Copyright Management Division, referred to the rich literature of Benin and in particular to the many women writers who gave to the Benin literature its reputation of excellence. Eugène Aballo, Director General of BUBEDRA, expressed his enthusiasm to see the project starting on such a firm ground.
On behalf of IFRRO, Pierre-Olivier Lesburguères expressed the full support and commitment of the international federation to the success of this initiative. During the conference, different remuneration mechanisms were discussed, and most importantly, the licensing of institutions and the private copying and reprography remuneration. The exchanges of views were facilitated by experts, including Olav Stokkmo, International Consultant who will be coordinating the implementation of the project, Sandra Chastanet, Director for the Rights Holders and International Relations Department at CFC and IFRRO’s Board member, and Innocent Assogba, Director of the National Library of Benin. Sandra Chastanet shared the French experience of offering cost-effective licences to the education sector, which in turn delivers important revenues to the French authors and publishers.
The following two days, a workshop was organised with the personnel of BUBEDRA and the experts present. Every aspect of collective management – from the legislative framework to the collection and distribution of revenues – were thoroughly reviewed. On 29 November, a meeting with the Fédération des Associations de Personnes Handicapées du Bénin (FAPHB, Benin Federation of Disabled People Associations) was facilitated by Anita Huss-Ekerhult. The discussion was around how the visually impaired people of Benin can share in the benefits of the WIPO Marrakesh Treaty to get better access to copies of books in accessible format. They discussed the work done by the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) and the recent call for capacity building project applications from organizations working to produce books in accessible formats for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.
On 30 November, Eugène Aballo and Pierre-Olivier Lesburguères joined a panel on “the future of the digital content industry in Africa” as part of the AfricanDigitalStory conference held in Cotonou. The publishing industry today is a digital industry, and the online exploitation of works is generating substantial revenues. While a small part of the value created goes back to the original authors and publishers, there is still a fundamental imbalance in the way online platforms digitise and make available the works of African authors and publishers but do not share the revenues with them. They shared their hope that the situation be better addressed in the future, with collective management serving as a possible way forward through which rightsholders can unite and negotiate a fairer share of the value generated.
IFRRO is grateful to all those involved in this new project and all who contributed to its successful launch. For more information, see the following articles published in the Benin press, here and here (in French).