Can Open Education succeed without copyright reform? Reflections from UNESCO 2nd World OER Congress.

Between 18-20 September we travelled to Ljubljana to attend the 2nd World Open Educational Resources Congress, organized by UNESCO. Our aim was to raise awareness about educational exceptions as complementary means for achieving the goals of Open Education.

Unfortunately, the new Ljubljana OER Action Plan, adopted by UNESCO members at the Congress, does not include actions related to copyright reform. We will continue working with the UNESCO OER policy community to change this.

Educational exceptions, and other issues related to how copyright law regulates education, have traditionally not been considered by the OER stakeholders. The Paris OER Declaration, which was the result of the first UNESCO OER Congress in 2012, failed to see educational exceptions as means of facilitating use and reuse of resources in education.

Our session, titled “Right Copyright for Education Worldwide” aimed to raise awareness about the importance of copyright law, and encourage OER stakeholders to get involved in copyright reform processes around the world. The session was organized in co-operation with the Slovenian Intellectual Property Institute.

Our panelists.

The session started with presentations by Delia Browne from the Australian National Copyright Unit and Teresa Nobre from Communia. Delia presented an overview of the global situation regarding copyright law and education. She focused on demonstrating how outdated copyright law constitutes a barrier to modern, innovative education. Teresa in turn presented results of her research project, that analysed legality of 15 everyday educational uses in 15 European Member States (see the report and the infographics from her study).

Afterwards, we hosted a panel of stakeholders and activists from around the world, who highlighted the importance of copyright reform for education around the world. María Juliana Soto from Colombian Fundación Karisma presented the case of Diego Gomez, a student sued for sharing a scientific article online. Diego’s case demonstrates how without proper educational exceptions, and a focus on enforcement of copyright, educators face legal risks for doing their work. Lira Samykbaeva from Soros Foundation Kyrgyzstan reported on a legal reform process with beneficial results for the educational sector: in recent years, Kyrgyzstan strengthened copyright exceptions for educational institutions and libraries, and at the same time introduced a rule stipulating openness of publicly funded OERs. Nikola Wachter from Educational International talked about educational exceptions in the broader context of issues important for teacher unions around the world. She tied copyright reform with her organization’s anti-privatisation agenda.

We were also happy to host Damjan Hirsch from the Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. Damjan commented upon the ongoing European copyright reform process and declared interest of his MInistry in securing an educational exception fit for the modern age.

Copyright reform has also been highlighted as one of the “10 directions to move Open Education” forward by the CPT+10 project. 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration and on this occassion a group of Open Education leaders and advocates defined 10 key directions for the movement – including greater focus on copyright reform issues.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our session!

We plan to work further with UNESCO stakeholders to raise awareness about the issue. We are happy that there is a general focus on “developing or updating legal frameworks to secure legally admissible use and contribution of quality OER”. We hope that within the scope of this action, we can work with UNESCO on securing strong educational exceptions around the world.


A satire on the art business in which art experts and dealers who assess paintings are depicted as donkeys. After the drawing by Trémolières in the Hessisches Landes Museum in Darmstadt (cropped).
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