Falling short: the status of RROs in Africa
Research finds that reproduction rights organizations in Africa do not meet WIPO best practice recommendations

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Dick Kawooya, left, and Desmond Oriakhogba, authors of the report, at the 42nd meeting of WIPO's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights. Photos by WIPO.

A new report (2022) examining the status of reproduction rights organizations (RROs) in Africa finds that RROs in most countries do not meet global best practice guidelines as set out by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). In this guest blog for EIFL, Desmond Oriakhogba and Dick Kawooya, authors of the report, The Status of Reproduction Rights Organisations (RROs) in Africa, discuss their research and how the findings can assist libraries in Africa.  The report has been posted to the PIJIP/TLS Research Paper series.

A reproduction rights organization is an organization that manages rights on behalf of authors and publishers. An RRO typically grants fee-based licences for the making of copies (photocopying and/or digital copies) of copyright-protected works for uses that go beyond what is permitted by copyright exceptions. 

We undertook research on the status of RROs in Africa to help inform policy and legislative efforts in support of education, research and access to knowledge. While RROs are considered central to the licensing infrastructure in Africa, little was known collectively about the performance of these organizations, and their role in managing access to copyright-protected content on the continent. 

Since RROs operate as a de facto monopoly (managing exclusive rights on behalf of authors and publishers), issues of good governance, financial accountability and independent government oversight are very important for libraries and other publicly funded institutions that pay licence fees to RROs. We hope the report will be a baseline to encourage best practices and improved standards of operation for RROs across Africa.

The research was conducted over the course of a year from June 2021 to May 2022 by way of a survey of publicly available information on RROs in all 55 African Union (AU) member states. The data was analyzed against key criteria drawn from the WIPO Good Practice Toolkit for Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) (2021). (An RRO is a type of CMO). The WIPO Toolkit contains 85 good practices clustered in thirteen broad categories including accountability, transparency, good governance, and effective financial management of CMOs. The examples of good practice are distilled from laws, regulations, and codes of conducts relating to CMOs in WIPO member states, and regional and international organizations. Although the examples of good practice are formulated as model codes of conducts, they can also be used as criteria for assessing the effectiveness of CMOs, including RROs.

This research focuses mainly on practices relating to RRO membership, openness in operation, reciprocal representation agreements (RRA), governance, finances, data management, dispute resolution mechanisms, and supervision. 

Of the 55 countries surveyed, we found that 65% (36 countries) have established organizations for the collective management of rights, while 34% (19 countries) have no CMO. Of the 36 countries with CMOs, 28 have organizations that perform the functions of an RRO (either as a general purpose CMO or a specific RRO). In other words, just over half of African countries (Algeria, Benin Republic, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Malawi, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa) have collective management organizations dealing with works produced within the print and publishing industries. 

However, digging a little deeper, it is apparent that RROs in many of the 28 countries are inactive. Some RROs fall short in key good practice indicators, such as the holding of annual general meetings (AGMs) to give members the opportunity to understand the health of the organization, while RROs in other countries (such as Liberia, Gambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Madagascar) showed no evidence of royalty distribution, a core benefit for members. Save for a few countries, notably Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Malawi, Senegal, and South Africa, the report reveals that RROs across Africa remain weak in all key areas of the WIPO Toolkit best practices. 

The research will assist libraries in Africa in two principal ways. First, it provides authoritative, factual information to help understand the landscape of RROs in Africa. Librarians seeking relevant copyright licences can easily determine in which countries RROs operate and how they perform.

Second, the research emphasizes the fact that copyright licences issued by RROs co-exist with limitations and exceptions (L&Es) in copyright law. In other words, licences do not replace the exceptions. Access in the first instance to copyrighted works is through the L&Es. (In countries without a functioning RRO, the majority of countries in Africa, L&Es are relied upon for access). Where the required use goes beyond what is permitted by law, authorization of the copyright owner is obtained through a licence. And while most L&Es allow free uses, most licences require payment of a fee. This is important for libraries in Africa to keep in mind when negotiating copyright licences, so that the uses covered by L&Es are excluded from any licence fee that is paid. This will help libraries in Africa to save their scarce finances and channel funds  to other important aspects of their services.

The Status of Reproduction Rights Organisations (RROs) in Africa (2022) is the first of a two-part study of RROs in Africa. The first part primarily comprised desk research drawn from publicly available information. The second part will focus on interviews and first-hand accounts from stakeholders and individuals that work with and interact with RROs across Africa. The interviews will enrich the data and help to address issues flagged in this report as requiring further analysis.

We hope the report will contribute to a practical understanding of RROs in Africa, and the role of copyright exceptions and copyright licensing in education, research and access to knowledge.

More information

  • The Status of Reproduction Rights Organisations (RROs) in Africa (2022) by Desmond Oriakhogba and Dick Kawooya is part of the PIJIP/TLS Research Paper series.
  • EIFL news: Raising standards for CMOs. WIPO’s Good Practice Toolkit for Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) draws attention to transparency by CMOs, good governance, and fairness in licensing practices.
  • EIFL Guide: How to negotiate with your national Reproduction Rights Organization