PIJIP and Wikimedia Germany Co-Host RightsCon 2021 Panel on Access to Digital Education in the Time of COVID-19
June 10, 2021
PIJIP Director Sean Flynn co-hosted a panel titled Access to Digital Education in the Time of COVID-19: Copyright and Public Health Emergencies as part of RightsCon 2021. He hosted the discussion with Justus Dreyling, the project manager of international regulation with Wikimedia Germany.
The panel focused on the impact of inadequate copyright rules on access to and use of educational materials in digital setting as well as how new legal instruments at the international level could solve these problems and facilitate access to knowledge.
Flynn presented maps dealings with research exceptions for text and data mining, Flynn said they highlight two things: “You know, one is they can help identify where the domestic reform is needed. So many, many countries are actually making changes to their limitations and exceptions for disability but that gives a prime opportunity to think about what other limitations and exceptions should look like.”
Flynn said the other thing the maps highlight is the international plane: “As discussed, the WTO is probably the place that’s moving most quickly on amendments to the international legal system but it’s not addressing access to education or research. So whatever happens to WTO, there’s still space and need, including urgently, for COVID, but also more systematically as we move into the digital environment.”
The panel included input from Dick Kawooya, the assistant director of the School of Information Science at the University of South Carolina, Teresa Nobre, the vice president of Communia Association, Amalia Toledo, a tech, law, and policy fellow with Wikimedia Foundation, and Robert Jeyakumar, the assistant secretary general of Malaysian Academic Movement.
Dick Kawooya, the assistant director of the School of Information Science at the University of South Carolina spoke about the impact of COVID on research and the right to research through a map on research exceptions for text and data mining. He stressed the need to make international copyright law and the legal system more amendable to access to published research
Teresa Nobre, the vice president of Communia focused on copyright and remote teaching and why it’s so complex. She said the text of the laws does not treat on-site and remote activities equally as on-site materials are permitted and tolerated whereas remote uses are not always expressly permitted and tolerated. She outlined the remote activities that are allowed by law and which are not, including using YouTube in a remote class. She outlined which resources are being used and how during remote teaching.
Amalia Toledo, a tech, law, and policy fellow with Wikimedia Foundation focused on Latin America and the Caribbean. She said the temporary closures of schools across the region have affected millions of students and teachers as so many lacked access to computers and broadband connectivity. She noted that most families only had one device and it was a low-end smartphone with poor internet connection. Despite this, the phone was able to connect to the application WhatsApp, which later became a critical educational tool. She outlined how the insufficient legal framework in Latin America has forced institutions into hard corners, including cutting funding for education.
Robert Jeyakumar, the assistant secretary-general of Malaysian Academic Movement focused on Malaysia and Asia as a whole. He explained how outdated copyright deter quality teaching and learning especially during the pandemic. Through the frame of five challenges, he explained why the current copyright laws need to catch up: digital onboarding, copyright issues preventing access to information, being forced to use whatever is available, turning to grey areas to gain access to blocked information, and the modes of learning.