ACA2K Executive Policy Brief: Ghana
The study involved a critical overview of the copyright regulatory framework in relation to public access to copyright materials for the purposes of teaching, learning and research in Ghana. As well as a doctrinal analysis of the legal regime, which included an analysis of the relevant statute and case law, the researchers looked at the relevant secondary literature and interviewed key stakeholders to obtain practical evidence related to the research questions.
The key stakeholders among government bodies were identified as the Ministry of Justice (Copyright Office, Legislative Drafting Section and the Law Reform Commission) and the Ghana Education Service. Stakeholders representing educational communities were identified as the University of Ghana (Balme Library, Faculty of Law Library, administrators and students) and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) (university
library, administrators, lecturers and students). Stakeholders identified in the rights-holders community were the Ghana Book Publishers Association, the Ghana Association of Writers, CopyGhana and Ghana Universities Press. The empirical evidence obtained from the field research interviews with these stakeholders assisted in answering the central research question of the project: whether the current copyright environment in Ghana impedes or promotes access to learning materials.
2.2 Key findings
This research found that, although Ghana is over 50 years old, copyright jurisprudence is still in its infant stage. Judges are still grappling with the basic concepts of copyright; lawyers practice copyright law under the general rubric of traditional legal practice, rather than as a specialised field of law; and academics have not completely positioned the development of academic literature on the subject as a key aspect of the promotion copyright jurisprudence in Ghana.
The study found that it would be misleading to assess the impact of copyright law on access solely from the perspectives of formal law (statutes and case law) and academic writings. An appreciation of the practice on the ground is crucial
to understanding the impact of copyright legislation on access. This is because, as the probe found, the practice on the ground is different from stipulations under formal law: even though the scope of permitted uses under Ghana’s Copyright Act of 2005 is restrictive, people do not comply with the strict requirements of the law when photocopying or engaging in other pro-access activities. Put differently, there is no strict enforcement of copyright law in relation to the activities of students and researchers. As a result, people do not feel the impact of the strict legislation on their lives.
On the other hand, strict enforcement of the law would, if begun before any legislative/regulatory reform, undermine some of the key objectives of any progressive copyright system. It would stifle access to teaching and learning, which, in turn, would slow down ‘creativity’ in Ghana. Therefore, enforcement mechanisms must be balanced against policies to improve the lot of students and researchers in Ghana.
The study further found that, in the universities, photocopying activities exceed the limits allowed under formal copyright law, the justification being that there are inadequate textbooks in the university libraries to support the large student
population. Also, students generally cannot afford to buy the textbooks that are available for sale, especially those published by foreign companies.