Genocide by Denial: How Profiteering from HIV/AIDS Killed Millions an open access book from Uganda

Posted by Eve Gray | 24 May, 2009

Fountain Publishers in Uganda has launched as its first open access book a powerful and moving indictment of the price in human lives that the global innovation system has extracted in sub-saharan Africa, written by the internationally respected AIDS specialist, Peter Mugyenyi. The book is Genocide by Denial: How profiteering from HIV/AIDS killed millions. This is the first demonstration project in the PALM Africa initiative and the response to the open acess book as well as its impact will be tracked and researched by the PALM team.

Fountain Publishers' motivation in pioneering the first  pilot in the PALM programme is to get wider exposure for its books and test the impact of open access on print sales. Fountain publishes a number of leading African scholars as well as Mugyenyi, including Mahmood Mamdani,  Ali Mazrui, Archie Mafeje  and Sylvia Tamale.  James Tumisiime, the publisher, hopes that placing an open access version of these books online will bring more readers to the Fountain publishing list, gaining more inter-African and international exposure and increasing sales of the print version of the books concerned.

Mugyenyi is certainly a fitting candidate for this initiative. His WHO bio reads as follows:

One of the world’s foremost specialists in the field of HIV/AIDS, Professor Mugyenyi is a pediatrician by training. He was key in founding Uganda’s HIV/AIDS Joint Clinical Research Centre and establishing partnerships with other institutions throughout the world. Although his reputation and expertise would allow him to find a position anywhere in the world, Professor Mugyenyi chose to remain in Kampala, where he feels his work has the most impact.

The timing is impeccable, as the release of the open access version of the book coincides exactly with a breakthrough at the World Health Organisation, which has finally reached agreement on a global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property. The WHO initiative, after long negotiations driven by developing countries, aims to address exactly the problem that Mugyenyi addresses – the excessively and unaffordably high prices of the drugs needed to treat neglected diseases in developing countries, driven by the global patenting system. In addition, it addresses the lack of adequate research on neglected diseases, also spawned by the profit-driven Intellectual propoerty regime supported by the developed world.  

Among the recommendations in the WHO  plan of action is government intervention to ensure voluntary sharing or research, open access publication repositories and open databases and compound libraries of medical research results. Thus Fountain's engagement with open access publishing on a public health topic is right in line with – and ahead of - developing global policy.

Mugyenyi's book needs to be read by the South African bureaucrats who are trying to enforce widespread and rigid commercialization of public research. Mugyeni's conclusion to his book puts the issues succinctly:

Laws that deny or delay access to life-saving and emergency drugs should be urgently addressed on the humanitarian principle of lives above profits, but without hurting the businesses. Innovation in the crucial area of human survival should not be entirely dependent on money-making and big business, but should primarily aim at the alleviation of all human suffering and saving lives as a basic minimum.
This does not contradict fair trade. Business success and humanism are not incompatible It is just a big lie to suggest that humanity is too dim to find ways of rewarding innovation and discovery other than by holding the very weakest of our society at ransom. It is also untrue that the only way businesses can thrive is by cutthroat pursuit of profits under powerful and insensitive protective laws, irrespective of the misery caused and the trail of blood in their wake. Lessons learns from the AIDS disaster should help the world find a way of incorporating justice and human rights in business. It is glaringly clear that the ills of the present system need to be fixed.

He appears to be vindicated by the fact that the WHO is now aligning itself with this approach.

Mugyenyi writes with deep compassion and scathing anger of the price that has been paid as a result of patent-driven high prices for antiretrovirals; of the expedience and posturing that can accompany high-profile donations; and of the implicit racism and under-estimation of African medical skills that sometimes underlies global health policies and donor initiatives in Africa. He has an incisive intellect when it comes to debunking the double-speak that can underpin the rhetoric of the big pharma companies and he provides what was to me a startling insight into the realities of the investment as against profits of drugs like Nevirapine. Most of all through this is a moving account of the emotional price paid by doctors and families as they helplessly watch the suffering of unnecessary deaths.  “It is painful to see a patient die due to lack of effective medicine or intervention.” he says, “simply because they are too poor to afford it."

Print copies of the book are available in the UK from the African Book Collective (ABC)  and the book is available from Amazon in the UK and the USA. Now we need to get a system going for POD fulfilment in African countries, something the South African PALM project is addressing.

RRO conference in Namibia

Posted by Eve Gray | 17 Nov, 2008

From Charles Batambuze:

I have just returned from Namibia where I was part of the regional training on policy issues regarding rights management. The training was specifically for Reprographic Rights Organisations (RROS) within Eastern and Southern Africa region and was organised by WIPO, IFRRO and ARIPO. I don't know how I ended up there but all the same it was a great opportunity for me to learn from IFRRO their view of copyright!

I was pleasantly suprised by the trainer from IFRRO who covered alternative licensing specifically creative commons. I thought that IFRRO would be opposed to the idea of alternative licensing but they're not if I'm to go by the trainers views. Instead it was the WIPO and ARIPO representatives who seemed to fiercely push the line of over protectionism (I think that liberal copyright approaches are yet to make inroads in the intergovernmental frameworks!). I used the occassion to talk about what we're doing and the lessons we're drawing as a result of this intervention. It was clear that RROs from the region are very ignorant of the alternative licensing. They were also ignorant about open access and lots of other issues within the digital environment. I think because of this failure, RROs are unaware of the actual benefits of alternative licensing and open access to the growth of the publishing industry within Africa. Some RROs especially from Zimbabwe mentioned that they have had clashes over open access at the Cape Town Book Fair especially with librarians from Southern Africa. Anyway at the end of the day, RROs requested WIPO and IFRRO to provide them with training that will focus on Open access and the creative commons. They wish to know how these work and possibly how an RRO can re-invent itself to serve meaningfully in the new era. <

PALM Africa Cape Town Publishers' Workshop

Posted by Eve Gray | 17 Nov, 2008

The PALM Africa South African Publishers' Workshop was held at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business on 3 and 4 November 2008. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together publishers of all kinds – commercial and not for profit – to brainstorm ideas for alternative licensing and innovative business models that could help enhance access to knowledge in South Africa. We hoped that we would come out of the workshop with agreement that open access and commercial publishing models were not irreconcilable in South Africa, that the ability to bring the two together would offer advantages on a continent that still needs print products where connectivity is limited, and that some publishers would be prepared to take the plunge and put in place demonstration projects to explore the real potential for the use of open licences in sustainable ways.

The workshop was oversubscribed (suggesting that there might be potential for running further interventions of this kind) and we were pleased to see equal enthusiasm from the large commercial publishers, small publishers and start-up ventures, NGOs and non-profit publishing services. There were large education publishers and a science popularisation expert, a distance education development organisation and an agricultural research agency, poetry and literature publishers and a university press, a publishing services consultant and research agencies for children and gender issues, among others.

With this mix of delegates, there was likely to be spin-off, we thought, from the interaction between groups of publishers who otherwise seldom, if ever, encounter one another. We therefore planned the workshop to be as interactive as possible, designing it as an incubator for the collaborative creation of new business models. The workshop was attended by Charles Batambuze and Robert Ikoja from the PALM Uganda project and by Jamil Semanyane and Sim Katende from the Makerere University Business School. This produced not only the potential for collaboration across projects in the two countries, but also, unexpectedly, the potential for collaboration between the Book Development bodies in both countries.

The workshop revealed a welcome capacity for particpants to engage in an open exchange of experiences and the potential to shift perceptions of how markets work in a changing internet environment. This in spite of the fears of some that such open discussion might reveal trade secrets in a highly competitive environment. The major fears that were expressed at the beginning of the workshop were that the knowledge gained would not be translatable to the real world, that there would be resistance from delegates' companies and from consumers, and that the risks might be too high. Interestingly, the fear of copyright infringement and plagiarism, although present, did not seem to be a dominant theme. On the other hand, there was a real eagerness to engage with the changing world of internet publishing and excitement at its potential, with one delegate claiming that openness could be a relief, as the business of clutching onto and protecting copyright was an exhausting affair. The real excitement, though, was about discovering new business models and finding space to brainstorm with informed colleagues how these could be applied. The major theme that emerged was the potential power of communities of practice and collaborative development - perhaps as a result of the demonstration of the power of community collaboration in the workshop itself.

Presentations were made on open licences (Andrew Rens of the Shuttleworth Foundation), attention marketing (David Duarte of Huddlemind Labs and the UCT Graduate School of Business Nomadic Marketing programme) and Blue Ocean strategy (Elaine Rumboll Director of Executive Education at UCT GSB), We also showed two of the video interviews that Frances Pinter had recorded with people in the UK who use flexible licensing to create new business models - Timo Hannay of Nature Publishing and Tom Reynolds, author of Blood, Sweat and Tea (the third is with dot-com entrepreneur, John Buckman)  - while Eve Gray presented some examples of innovative uses of flexible licensing in the publishing industry worldwide.

There was certainly enough new thinking fed into the workshop to provide inspiration for the participants. However, the majority of the time in the workshop was spent doing just that – workshopping. When, during the afternoon tea break of the second day, delegates were still clustering in groups having animated discussions, we realised that the process had been a success and that a really productive dynamic had been generated.

What emerged as potential demonstration projects included:

  • the creation of a platform for a collaborative online community that could interact in posting and evaluating creative content, developing commercial approaches using flexible licensing;

  • the creation of a solidly-founded publishing plan for a research and development agency, with a coherent licensing and dissemination strategy to extend the impact of its community-focused programme;

  • a community web space that could post scientific research online in order to make it accessible in a variety of ways, popularising it for a wider range of audiences and creating an Interdisciplinary dialogue that could also help contribute to the innovation chain;

  • the creation of an online forum for academic content, linked to a scholarly list and made available with CC licences, designed to generate discussion and feedback for reputation-building and to the publication of selected content voted for by the community;

  • the publication of open access peer reviewed conference proceedings as the first step towards the launching of a suite of online journals, strategically developed to address a gap in the market and to ensure accreditation, with a community space linked to the publications;

  • the creation of a dialogue between Ugandan and South African book development councils for inter-African publishing development using online content linked to print on demand print delivery.

The Ugandan projects that are under way and which were selected from 11 publishers wanting to participate in the project are:

  • Femrite, a publisher of women's writing, has selected 3 titles and has explored using Creative Commons Non-Commercial (NC) and Share-Alike (SA) licenses for these. Femrite's goal is to guarantee revenue streams through rights deals, sales of physical books globally and through grants from donor agencies. Since they are members of the African Books Collective (ABC), they will use POD opportunities elsewhere for international distribution. Hopefully, the content for these three books will be online by December 2008.

  • Mastermind, a publisher of books for SMEs is currently exploring using an NC license. They want to guarantee revenue streams through rights deals and demand for physical books, as well as through driving demand for their training programme for SME entrepreneurs.

  • Fountain Publishers is East Africa’s leading academic publishe, a commercial publisher with an impressive academic list of well-established authors, including internationally-known authors like Mahmoud Mamdani. One effective marketing strategy is to publicise these well known authors. Fountain Publishers want to make their academic titles freely available online and are currently exploring the NC license. They believe this will add value to the reputation of their writers as well as to the company itself. They will be using their profits from school textbook publishing to finance this experiment. They are looking at revenue streams from POD in UK and USA. They would like to make content available freely online from February 2009.

  • The Makerere Insitute of Social Research feels that there is limited appreciation for their work and for African research output in general. They believe that making their content freely available will boost their reputation and attract more research funding. PALM has recommended the SA license.

What was particularly pleasing were the synergies that emerged between the Ugandan and South African projects, with a number of potential cross-overs between projects and a shared interest in the need to grow inter-African communications through online content and distributed POD for local printing.




Lessons from the Cape Town Book Fair

Posted by Eve Gray | 19 Jun, 2008

The Cape Town Book Fair was the major happening this last weekend - a long weekend with the Youth Day holiday on Monday celebrating South Africa's young people in commemoration of  the 1976 Soweto uprising. The Book Fair is a hugely successful event, a partnership between the Publishers' Association of South Africa and the Frankfurt Book Fair that attracts some 50,000 people to a glossy and spacious conference centre at the harbour end of downtown Cape Town. At the same time, celebration of the role of youth was muted as the country agonised over the role of a turbulent and disaffected youth in the wake of the xenophobic violence of the last few weeks. The Book Fair risks providing illusory but comforting images of the rainbow nation; while in the chilly and wet winter weather outside, stories of refugees huddled in leaking tents in windswept seaside camps reminded us of the dystopia that is South Africa's nasty underbelly.

Is a book fair then just an irrelevance? Is reading only for the wealthy (and white)? Certainly the people pouring through the turnstiles and wandering down the aisles were a fairly pale version of the rainbow nation. Nevertheless, attendance at the Book Fair does make it clear that there is a hunger among a wider range of South Africans than are to be seen in our bookshops for books, reading, information, knowledge, culture...

Walking through the fair was an interesting exercise. The first book fair, three years ago, was a rather first world affair, with a lot of UK publishers in attendance and some very large and very flash stands of the multinational publishers. Now, the big players are still there, but in the form of their South African companies. Where there were UK publishers in attendance was on the stands of the academic textbook companies, where imports still dominate. There were a lot of Indian stands and quite a few African publishers. But it is what was revealed about who the South African publishers are that was most interesting.

In the context of the PALM Africa project, the Cape Town Book Fair certainly raises a lot of questions. PALM Africa asks some very pragmatic questions about what strategies are needed to provide access to knowledge in an African context. In particular it looks at what combinations of licences – for free content or commercial distribution – would be most effective in providing this access. A PALM workshop held in Uganda a few weeks ago highlighted the fact that in Africa, there is still not enough connectivity to allow for democratic access to digital content: print is needed. We are still a way from a digital utopia that could provide free access to So it was interesting to hear that the buzz of the Book Fair was print on demand. Would distributed print on demand across Africa provide a solution to the availability of appropriate knowledge materials? Or is the unit cost of POD simply too high? What is clear is that as long as print is needed, there have to be commercial models for the provision of physical books.

The questions are: In a world that is overwhelmingly dominated by content from the North, how can one grow the voice of Africa? How well does the commercial publishing sector provide for this and what alternative models/publishers can there be? And how was this reflected in the exhibitors at the Cape Town Book Fair? What interested me most was the number of alternative publishers there. These include the public benefit and NGO publishers who we are recognising in PALM as substantial research publishers, untracked and unrecorded in publishing industry surveys, but probably outpublishing the formal sector scholarly publishers, with the exception perhaps of the open access HSRC Press. These publishers have for many years posted their content online and, although they do not tend to use open licences (opting instead for 'all rights reserved' although they explicitly allow free downloads, or the absence of any copyright notice in the mistaken understanding that this makes the content free) they do operate a publishing model that aims at maximum social impact through the availability of free online content and printed publications for sale. Unlike the formal publishers, they do not limit themselves to the conventional scholarly genres of scholarly books and journals, but publish whatever is needed to meet their development goals: research reports, policy briefs, newsletters, community handbooks and training materials. These are the organisations that are mediating research knowledge to the public, aiming to create social impact for South African research.

Walking the aisles, I met Neil Verlaque Napper of the Storyteller Group, which publishes comic book popularisations that address major issues in a way that has great impact and reach on commission from government and donors. This is a reminder of another strong strand of alternative publishing: the 'edutainment' publishers whose sustainability model is public funding for materials development in a range of media and who have high levels of skill in materials design, communication skills for reaching mass audiences and pedagogic expertise in getting messages across. The most prominent example is probably Soul City, which describes itself as 'a dynamic and innovative multi-media health promotion and social change project', using TV, radio and print, to get its message across in whichever medium is appropriate. Again, many of the print materials are available for free download.

Then there were cultural initiatives, like the Chimurenga literary magazine, which has gone to a lot of trouble to involve their authors in the licensing of online content and are providing one of the liveliest forums for literary development and discussion in print and online. It is here that one encounters most vividly the authors and cultural activists who are not provided for in the literary establishment.

And what about Novel Idea ,where Michelle Matthews is developing the really novel idea of cell phone downloads for fiction, plugging this with tantalising promotional teasers and getting a strong response. Send an sms and get your download of a chapter of a novel. This is part of a lively community of young writers and book people, the one place where digital media were surfacing at the book fair. Electric Book Works, a driving force in this community, gave a workshop on Tuesday on digital publishing strategies.

What, then, about the youth who were being celebrated in Monday's holiday? They are the recipients of some of the edutainment publishing; the objects of studies in the NGO and scholarly publishing sectors; participants to an extent in the alternative literary scene; But, as Adam Haupt, author of Stealing Empire, pointed out in an HSRC workshop, and as Dave Chislett discussed over coffee, the real action is in performance, township hip-hop counterculture, oral and music traditions, The book industry is not, as Dave points out in his blog today either trying to understand where the potential readers could be, not engaging actively with alternative media alongside traditional books.

There is a lot for the PALM project to engage with.

The PALM Africa project

Posted by Eve Gray | 12 Jun, 2008

PALM Africa is a Research Initiative financed by International Research Development Centre (IDRC) Canada,  

The liberalising of licensing regimes has for several years now been seen by some as a means of opening up access to kknowledge in the digital age. In this context new flexible copyright licensing practices have served to produce a ‘some rights rrreserved’ environment where rights holders can safely find a middle ground between ‘all rights reserved’ on the one hand and tthe relinquishing of all rights into the public domain on the other.

The formal publishing industry is itself trying to come to terms with the digital age and is experimenting with a number of new bbusiness models. This new disruptive digital technology is necessitating new approaches to copyright. Yet, where we stand tttoday is still at the incubation stage of these new models, with caution competing with boldness as the industry tries to find wways of recovering its investments. In the meantime there is still the urgent need to see how these new models may facilitate aaccess and distribution in developing countries.

  In an African context, in which access to internet connectivity is very limited and in which the question of distribution of learning materials is a serious challenge, what is missing is research on how open content approaches employing flexible licensing could wwork in conjunction with local publishing in developing countries to improve access to learning materials.

The main question of this research project is; can the adoption of more flexible licensing regimes contribute to improved ppublishing and better access to learning materials in Africa today?

This project brings together active research in the form of publishing demonstration projects combined with an academic aassessment that reviews whether or not alternative licensing policies may bring about improvements in the publishing process ddefined as increased access to materials while maintaining sustainability of publishing services. Hence the emphasis will be on ccollaborative efforts to find practical solutions.

South Africa and Uganda have been chosen for this study because of their differences rather than their similarities. They provide a a broad spread of experiences in publishing, each with different heritages and learning environments. This study should be of iinterest to most countries in Africa and will provide a template on how to evaluate the potential of more flexible licensing ppractices.

In South Africa the project is led by Eve Gray, who is an Honorary Research Associate at CET at UCT and  Steve Kromber, both working through Creative Research and Development, the implementing organisation. Adam Haupt of the UCT Film and Media Studies Department is the Lead Researcher.