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ACA2K Executive Policy Brief: Ghana

2. The Copyright environment in Ghana

The regulatory scope of the copyright system in Ghana has increased considerably since independence. A wide range of materials, such as literary works, artistic works, musical works, sound recordings, audiovisual works, choreographic works, derivative works, computer software or programmes, and folklore, are all protectable subject matter in Ghana. The increase in the scope of copyright materials was not unexpected, as Ghana has strived to follow its international treaty obligations. However, Ghana has now gone beyond international standards; for example, in relation to the duration of copyright protection. Copyright protection in Ghana now lasts for a term of the life of the author plus 70 years for literary works, instead of the standard term of life plus 50 years. This potentially delays public accessibility of works for 20 years.

It is said by some that the incremental expansion in the scope and duration of copyright in Ghana is intended to promote the creative talents of the citizenry. The reality, however, is that the current copyright environment in Ghana makes it difficult for copyright’s main objectives to be realised: rewarding creativity and at the same time ensuring access to teaching/learning material. The problems are threefold. First, there is a general lack of public awareness of the existence or the content of the Copyright Act, which means that people are not really motivated by copyright protection to be creative. Second, those who are aware of the content of the Copyright Act seem to use it primarily to promote their parochial interests. Indeed, it is common to find the issuance of ‘anti-copyright-violation’ orders in the media without any corresponding counter-campaign to enlighten the public about access-enabling flexibilities under the same Act. The effect then is that the public is not encouraged/enabled to take advantage of the exceptions or the permitted use that falls outside the scope of copyright protection. Finally, the scope of permitted use has not been advanced or clarified in any policy document. This has made the scope of permitted use murky – thereby making both the enforcement of the law and legitimate access by users difficult.

The practice is that photocopying for any purpose, including personal use and study, is done with little concern on the part of those who do the photocopying. The scope of legitimate access to knowledge under the copyright environment is unclear and, in some respects, unfavourable to researchers; however, it can be changed to maximise effective access to learning materials in Ghana.

Thus, Ghana finds itself in the situation – also present in other ACA2K study countries – where the existing laws and practices potentially undermine access to knowledge by jeopardising the sustainability of the entire copyright system. This situation is unfavourable for effective and, for that matter, legitimate access to copyright materials in Ghana.

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