Rami Olwan

All About CyberLaw, Copyright and Developing Countries

IGF workshop No. 176 Entitled “Open Content and Open Licensing in the Arab World: Opportunities and Challenges Facing their Use and Applicability”

Professor Brian Fitzgerald from Queensland University of technology has chaired the workshop on “Open Content and Open Licensing in the Arab World: Opportunities and Challenges Facing their use and Applicability” and gave an introductory remark on Creative Commons and its importance to the region.

He introduced Mr. Ziad Maraqa from Abu- Ghazaleh Intellectual Property and his involvement with Creative Commons Jordan as a co- project leader.  Ziad Maraqa gave an introduction on Creative Commons as an open content license. He introduced the concept of Creative Commons and how does it work in practice. He explained how Creative Commons licenses are expressed in legal code, human readable and machine-readable. He also explained and compared between six Creative Commons licenses Attribution, Attribution-Share Alike, Attribution-No Derivatives, Attribution-Non-commercial, Attribution-Non commercial-Share Alike, Attribution-Non-commercial-No Derivatives. He finally gave practical examples of how CC is been applied in the Arab world and adopted by Al Jazeera in their repository site for the videos taken during the Gaza war and available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

Rami Olwan a Research Fellow at ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Brisbane, Australia gave a presentation entitled “Open Content Licensing and Creative Commons- A Jordanian Perspective”. The presentation tackled the meaning of open content and open content licensing and their importance to the Arab World and developing countries. He also went through the history of Creative Commons and its foundation in 2001 by prominent U.S academics. Jordan was the first country from the Middle East to adopt the project in the region since 2002. The Jordanian Creative Commons team translated the American licences to Arabic and made the necessary amendments to make it compatible with the Jordanian Copyright Law and the civil law legal system. Mr Olwan finally noted the open content licensing in the Arab World is still in an early stage and there is a need to conduct public awareness and to do research on the enforceability of Creative Commons licenses. This in his opinion would make Arab users more interested in Creative Commons.

Rafik Dammak from Creative Commons Tunisia and a researcher at Tokyo University in computer science spoke about the Tunisian experience in porting Creative Commons license to the country. He mentioned that it is not possible to reuse the same translation done by Creative Commons Jordan in Tunisia because of the difference between the legal systems in both countries. He explained why Creative Commons team in Tunisia need to do the work again. This is because the translation has to be done in both Arabic and French in Tunisia. He further explained that Tunisia is currently debating issuing a new copyright law that is expected to be much different from the current applicable copyright law, and that will definitely delay the work of the Creative Commons team. Mr. Dammak concluded by the acknowledging the lack of awareness among Tunisian users of Creative Commons and confusion between open content and open source licensing. He suggested in rectifying this problem to obtain the support of the Tunisian government, as this would encourage open content licensing particularly Creative Commons.

Ahmad Gharbeia, an ICT consultant form Egypt delivered a short presentation on what he thought was hindering the adoption and acceptance of liberal licenses by the public, the private sector and governments in the Arab world. He believes that the basic concepts of intellectual property need to be disseminated in order to harness the sharing culture, which already exists, and to encourage more creativeness.

Issa Mahasneh from Jordan Open Source Association spoke at the end. His presentation was about free culture and how it could be harnessed in the Arab world. Mr. Mahasneh believes that free culture means “a world where everybody can participate freely to transmit, share and obtain knowledge and that would promote creativity, innovation, free expression, public access to knowelge and civil liberties”. He outlined the postive points in the Arab world and also the negative points that are against the spread of free culture movement in the Arab world. He finally recommended governments to be more interested in open content and free culture should be supported from within communities.

During the question time, a couple of questions were addressed to the speakers. An audience member from the Library of Alexandria asked on the importance of adopting Creative Commons by governments and how this would assist in the spread of the movement in the Arab world. She wanted to know whether it is important to Creative Commons initiative into a political framework, or just address the authors?

Rami Olwan from Creative Commons Jordan answered that adopting Creative Commons licenses by governments would make the general public more interested in the movement and more willing to know how it could be used. He further noted that in Jordan, the Minister of Justice has supported the launch of Creative Commons Jordan. This proved to be helpful specially when it is from the highest authority responsible for the enforcement of intellectual property laws in Jordan. Mr. Ziad Maraqa has also answered the question pointing out how Creative Commons Jordan is working with several organizations in Jordan and outside in spreading the idea to the public. Issa Mahasnah added that in his onion it is probably not required the presence of the government, but most importantly to have all the work produced by government and public administration under some open license and accessible to everyone.

Another audience member asked on the importance of Creative Commons and what it tried to achieve. Rami Olwan mentioned the fact that the professor Lawrence Lessig, founding member of Creative Commons believes that laws are restricting freedom on the Internet and are been used to lock down creativity and innovation. He created this system of licenses to rectify the situation. Mr. Ahmad Gharbeia has also provided his opinion on what is the main problem that Creative Commons is trying to fix from his experience as an ICT consultant.

An employee of the British library addressed the last question. He was interested to see if in the Arab World, academics and universities started to use Creative Commons license? He mentioned that it is very important that civil society is engaged with government around open access/content, and it is important to work with organizations like universities and cultural institutions that actually sit in between civil society and governments and have different drivers. In his experience with the UK and also in the European level, he noted that government officials are actually interested in these issues and they will listen, but it is important to know the internal focus but be external focused on the political level.

Rami Olwan acknowledged the importance of building this sort of connection between Creative Commons and academic institutions. He also hoped that more research is done on how Creative Commons could help the development of research and education in the Arab world. Issa Mahasneh also added that unfortunately academics in the Arab World and most professors and instructors are not completely aware of the open access and he hoped that Jordan Open Source Association to be more active in the future in spreading the idea. It is important also for other communities in the Arab world to encourage educational organization and governments themselves to adopt open access.

To listen to the audio and the full workshop, please visit here http://www.un.org/webcast/igf/ondemand.asp?mediaID=ws091118-luxor-pm1

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