In April, ccLearn crossed telephone lines with Italy and Ukraine for the first time. Executive Director Ahrash Bissell spoke with eIFL.net, Electronic Information for Libraries, an international nonprofit organization whose interests, among many, lie in open access publishing and fair and balanced intellectual property laws for libraries.
Below is a follow-up interview over email with Rima Kupryte, Director of eIFL.net, and Iryna Kuchma, Program Manager of eIFL-OA (Open Access).
First, can you say a few words about yourselves and eIFL? How did you come to get involved in eIFL and to hold your respective positions within the larger framework? What about eIFL attracted you?
I am a professional librarian, graduated from Vilnius University in Lithuania. I joined the Open Society Institute – Budapest (OSI) Network Library Program late in 1995. The idea for eIFL was born at OSI and later the idea turned into an independent organisation which I joined from its establishment in 2003. Coming from Lithuania, which had poorly resourced libraries and where access to information was restricted when I was a student, I was very passionate about ideas—what could be done in order to improve libraries, open them and offer better services to its users. eIFL.net is a very innovative and creative organisation that offers a lot of opportunities and ideas; it makes things happen.
eIFL’s mission statement, “Enabling access to knowledge through libraries in developing and transition countries,” appeals to me a lot. I graduated from the social sciences department and access to knowledge was one of my research topics as well as social aspects of open access, free and open source software and open content licenses. For nine years I worked for OSI in Ukraine and Open Access was one of my program areas. It was fascinating to see the positive changes in scholarly communication and I am glad I can go on with this program – Open Access – in eIFL.net.
What about eIFL itself–can you sum up what it stands for, its mission and overarching agenda? Assuming you don’t already have one, if you could come up with a catchy new slogan for what eIFL is trying to do, what would it be?
eIFL.net is a not-for-profit organization that supports and advocates the wide availability of electronic resources by library users in transitional and developing countries. It is universally acknowledged that access to knowledge is fundamental to education and research and the creation of human capital upon which the development of societies depend. This is especially true in a knowledge society where economic progress depends on having a literate and educated population. Libraries and education are synonymous. A library has little meaning if it cannot impart knowledge. Good education cannot exist without access to quality information resources to support teaching, learning and research. Our current slogan is “Enabling access to knowledge through libraries in transition and developing countries”. In July we will be having an eIFL visioning retreat to brainstorm and think where eIFL.net will be five to ten years from now.
eIFL.net is a powerful network of 2,220 libraries in 47 transitioning and developing countries with a combined population of 800 million people including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Croatia, Egypt, Estonia, Georgia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Mali, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Palestine, Poland, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In 2008, a pilot Open Access workshop is planned in Latin America – Cuba.
I’ve gathered (mainly from information on your website) that eIFL and Creative Commons are promoting and doing similar things. For example, the vision of the eIFL program “Advocacy for Access to Knowledge: copyright and libraries”, known as eIFL-IP, is the development of fair and balanced copyright laws taking into account libraries and the public interest. How would you relate these goals to CC and CC-licensing?
The goal of eIFL-IP is to maximise access to knowledge for education, research and civil society through fair and balanced copyright laws that take into account the needs of libraries and students, researchers and professionals who depend on library services to advance their education, careers and life opportunities. Our vision is that eIFL-IP librarians will become activists and leaders for promoting access to knowledge, especially in the digital age. We are achieving this by
- creating a network of library copyright specialists and building capacity in the library perspective in copyright issues.
- becoming the recognised advocate for library copyright issues in developing and transitioning countries at international and national levels.
- encouraging the international library community to place the issues of developing and transitioning countries high on their agendas.
eIFL-IP and CC are natural allies because
- eIFL-IP supports the use of alternative models through open content licenses, such as CC and GPL. eIFL.net advocates for open access and OER.
- eIFL-IP and CC both promote access to content (for CC digital content).
- eIFL-IP builds capacity and raises awareness, including how to use copyright law as an enabler of access to knowledge rather than a means to distort, deny or delay access. CC licenses support this goal by promoting the full spectrum of possibilities within the copyright system, i.e. from all rights reserved to the public domain.
- As information professionals, librarians should be in a position to advise library clients on issues relating to access and use of digital content. With its powerful brand, CC helps librarians to understand and promote issues relating to access.
For more information on the library perspective on CC: http://www.eifl.net/cps/sections/services/eifl-ip/docs/handbook-e/#cc
What are some of the major challenges eIFL-IP faces?
The challenge that remains is how to build capacity at the national level; when we are working well at both international and national levels, we will achieve the best results.
The relevance of copyright to libraries wasn’t always recognised because the connection with day-to-day library activities was not fully understood. This is changing, however, and eIFL-IP librarians are becoming more aware and thus are more active. Once this connection is made, the importance of advocating for better copyright laws will be better understood.
Good activists are in short supply so it is disappointing to lose trained people due to changes in jobs or through emigration. We rely almost entirely on volunteers which limits our ability to make too onerous demands or to enforce deadlines.
How do you think these challenges will be overcome?
By focusing on building capacity
- providing resources e.g. http://www.eifl.net/cps/sections/services/eifl-ip/issues/eifl-handbook-on
- holding an annual conference for face-to-face training e.g. http://www.eifl.net/cps/sections/services/eifl-ip/training/2008-istanbul
- identifying “champions” and encouraging those who are active e.g. Moldova came to WIPO in March 2008, support for regional events (e.g. Nigeria Library Association pre-conference on copyright and digitisation in June 2008).
- developing a curriculum in copyright issues for libraries for mass training (see below).
You are also now developing a distance learning course on copyright for librarians jointly with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law. Can you describe the project?
In partnership with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School in the USA, we are developing a brand new curriculum on copyright for librarians. This is a first, and we hope that many more librarians, especially in developing and transitioning countries, will benefit from the training and become advocates for access to knowledge.
The curriculum seeks to develop greater understanding of copyright by librarians. The goal is to build a human network from which they can draw support. We hope to reach a critical mass of librarians who can contribute to public discussion, who can take part in informed debate with government and industry representatives, and who can join the library community from the developed world by expressing their views in important international forums, such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The course should be implemented with strategic partners in the global South, such as library training and law schools in universities, as well as distance learning programs.
The goals of the course are:
- To develop greater understanding of copyright by librarians by providing copyright training tailored to the needs of librarians in developing and transitioning countries.
- To support librarians’ mission (participation to the access to knowledge movement).
- To help librarians answer copyright questions they face during their work.
- To help librarians answer users’ questions on their rights (professors, students, general public).
- To empower librarians to advise governments and other public policy makers and initiatives toward balanced copyright law.
The project lead Melanie Dulong de Rosnay, Berkman Fellow, has been legal lead for CC France since 2003.. A meeting of international experts in libraries, copyright, distance learning and developing countries took place at the Berkman Center 17-18 April 2008 to provide advice on the structure, methodology and the content of the course as well as its sustainability.
How important is this and other collaborative relationships to your work? Are you reaching out to additional partners? What types of organizations are key to your efforts?
Collaboration is very important as our agenda and wishes are great and we can not accomplish everything by ourselves. There are certain movements and program areas that require strong advocacy, and for this, more voices are better. This applies to our activities in Open Access (OA), Intellectual Property (IP) and Free and Open Source (FOSS). Some of our programs are more advanced than others as we launched them in different years. Our newest program is on FOSS; we started it only last fall. We have quite a long list of NGO partners in IP, which were built due to our strong presence at WIPO. We are building more partnerships in OA and FOSS this year.
Our target audience is scholars and researchers, doctors and lawyers, students and teachers. And in Open Access projects we set alliances with human rights groups, environmental organizations, patient groups demanding access to government information, Internet activists (Wikipedia communities, Creative Commons, etc.) modeling the approach of the Alliance for Tax Payers Access (a diverse and growing alliance of organizations representing taxpayers, patients, physicians, researchers, and institutions that support open public access to taxpayer-funded research). We are working closely with SPARC and SPARC Europe, EurOpenScholar, DRIVER project, Electronic Publishing Trust, BioLine International, Association of Research Libraries, Stichting SURF, Dutch collaborative organization for Higher Education and Research on IT, Directory of Open Access Journals, and we are also glad to start working with ccLearn and Creative Commons International (and iCommons).
Like ccLearn, eIFL is a project that is involved with the Open Education Movement. How would you define the Open Education Movement, and what role does eIFL play in it?
The goal of the Open Education movement is to create a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. This goal can be reached by developing a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use. eIFL Open Access (OA) Program encourages sharing of research publications and educational materials.
Through the eIFL OA Program, eIFL members build capacity of the issues related to OA to enable members to benefit from the content, which is made freely available through OA, as well as ensuring that the local content produced within their countries is widely distributed. This is accomplished through the development of open repositories (for the research papers and educational materials) and by encouraging authors within the countries to publish their articles in Open Access journals. eIFL-OA Program seeks to enhance access and use of research findings, increase the efficiency of research developments, and accelerate use and innovation—stimulating the economy. To achieve this, we apply the developing practices of Open Access as defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative (http://www.soros.org/openaccess/). The same practices became the foundation for the recently launched Cape Town Open Education Declaration: Unlocking the promise of open educational resources (http://www.capetowndeclaration.org/).
Among other things, ccLearn is focused on educating people about the importance of legal and technical interoperability for open education. What are your thoughts on this? What other activities do you think should be priorities for ccLearn (and Creative Commons) with respect to open education?
Yes, legal and technical interoperability is extremely important for open education. We encourage educators, scholars and students to use open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing. We advocate for Creative Commons Attribution Licenses used by a number of open access projects, e.g. The Public Library of Science (PLoS) – a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature a public resource. Everything they publish is freely available online to read, download, copy, distribute, and use (with attribution) any way one wishes. Creative Commons did a lot for the free culture movements around the world. These approaches should be adjusted now for the educators and learners encouraging them to practice open education and raising their awareness about open content licences. Raising awareness and sharing good examples and advocacy are key elements to the success of the Open Education movement.