EIFL - ZULC comment on Zimbabwe’s copyright amendment bill
EIFL and ZULC submit comment on Zimbabwe’s Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Amendment Bill

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EIFL and our partner, the Zimbabwe University Libraries Consortium (ZULC), appreciated the opportunity to submit comments to the Zimbabwe Intellectual Property Office (ZIPO) on the first draft of the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Amendment Bill. 

Our joint comments included two general remarks, as well as specific comments on provisions in the bill related to persons with print disabilities and the protection of technological protection measures.

First, ZULC requested their formal inclusion in ZIPO’s copyright stakeholder list. Copyright law affects library responsibilities of national importance, such as preserving Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage, providing access to learning materials for education and research, and producing information in formats that can be accessed by people with disabilities. Thus the library community has a distinct role as a stakeholder representing the public interest in copyright, and believes that ZULC can make a positive contribution to copyright debates in Zimbabwe.

Second, the amendment bill is a missed opportunity to deal with some broader issues in copyright, for example updating provisions on the making of research copies by libraries. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for copyright rules that support online access and use of material in emergency situations, and in this context, a broader review of the law could be merited.

In our specific comments on provisions in the bill, we noted that the new section relating to persons with print disabilities inadvertently omits permitting an authorized entity, such as a library, to supply an accessible format copy to a print disabled person in Zimbabwe, and we suggested how the oversight might be corrected. We also recommended removing the reference to the Berne three step test (that establishes three conditions for the use of an exception) in this section, and adopting a provision to ensure the right to read in all formats, print and electronic. 

After Zimbabwe ratified the Marrakesh Treaty in 2019, EIFL made recommendations for amendments to the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act (2004) to implement the treaty into national law. EIFL's recommendations, and the relevant provisions in the Copyright Amendment Bill, largely track the treaty text. However, EIFL's recommendation to extend the new provisions to all disabilities was not taken on board in the amendments.

On technological protection measures (TPMs), the Minister is given authority to adopt exceptions for TPMs. Instead, we recommended the adoption of TPM exceptions in legislation, at least for activities permitted for persons with print disabilities, and libraries and archives, to provide clarity and certainty for these important public interest activities.