World Intellectual Property Day: Open access to research and educational resources is imperative during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

published 26 April 2020 updated 7 May 2020

On World Intellectual Property Day, 26 April, Education International calls for copyright legislation to be urgently updated to ensure open access to research and education materials for teachers and researchers across the world. This need has been intensified by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has caused an unprecedented disruption in education across the world.

Over 1.5 billion students today are unable to go to school and tens of millions of education workers have had to engage in remote emergency teaching and learning to ensure that education can continue.

In the face of this educational crisis, schools, universities, libraries, archives, museums, and research institutes across the world, forced to close their buildings, are also transferring materials online and providing remote access, but only where copyright laws permit.

In a number of countries, and from some right holders themselves, steps have been taken to facilitate access to academic articles and other works, educational and cultural materials, research data, chemical libraries, and needed medicines and medical devices that are subject to intellectual property rights.

Welcoming these initiatives, David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, stated: “We must first and foremost ensure that intellectual property regimes are a support, and not an obstacle, to stopping this pandemic and addressing its consequences.”

While these steps are to be lauded, Education International calls for full open access and that it be maintained also after the epidemic. “The public good is best served by the widest and most accessible dissemination of knowledge, including scholarly work and educational materials. Open educational resources are key to the provision of equitable and quality education for all,” Edwards stressed.

Equitable access to teaching, learning and research materials

The Education International Resolution on strengthening equitable access to teaching, learning and research materials further advocates for a balanced approach to copyright legislation and calls for a common commitment by users, educators, institutions, and governments to promote copyright, open educational resources, and open access policies that foster openness and are aligned with the promotion of education and research as a public good and human right.

The resolution also reaffirms that textbook, copyright, open educational resources, and open access policies should be developed and implemented in consultation with education unions to ensure that these policies comply with national quality standards for teaching and learning, and do not undermine teachers’ and academics’ autonomy and working conditions.

WIPO contribution towards achieving sustainable development

On World Intellectual Property Day, Education International also urges the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to show its commitment to achieving sustainable development by taking swift and clear action to ensure that the global intellectual property system promotes research, education, access to culture, and public health, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This could be done by:

  • Encouraging all member states to take advantage of flexibilities in the international system that permit uses of intellectual property-protected works for online education, for research and experimental uses, and for vital public interests, such as access to medicine and culture;
  • Calling on all rights holders to remove licensing restrictions that inhibit remote education, research (including for text and data mining and artificial intelligence projects) and access to culture, including across borders, both to help address the global pandemic, and in order to minimise the disruption caused by it;

Education International recently joined partner organisations from across the world in a letter to WIPO putting forward these requests.

You can also listen to our podcast for World Intellectual Property Day here

The blog by Yamile Socolovsky, “Intellectual property in times of Coronavirus”, is available here