Sociology of Intellectual Property in Sierra Leone

Textbook, 2018

31 Pages






Facing modernity
Noting the value
Setting the discourse
The social restriction paradigm

Theoretical Framework
The use of Computer Software in Teaching in Sierra Leone

A Case Perspective
The Why Direction
The Conservative Matrix
The Enveloped Tool
The Drive of the Metropolis

Carving the Future

About the author

Mohamed Bangura is an alumnus of Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone and Africa University, Mutare, Zimbabwe. A full- time lecturer one in the Department of Sociology, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. He teaches and writes in the areas of Sociology of Religion, Social Stratification, Social Research, Industrial/Sociology of Development and Organisational Behaviour. Bangura is the author of Organisational Behaviour: A Sociological Perspective and A Sociological Acquisition: A Sierra Leone Paradigm and two books of poetry (Waves of a Raining Mind and A Gaze of the Heart).


Albeit the discipline of Intellectual Property is significantly institutionalised and contributes immensely to the social development of western democracies, it is relatively novel in Sierra Leone as it is struggling with the harsh realities of socioeconomic growth as evident in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially within the West Africa Sub Region.

This book deliberates on the level of awareness of students and teachers of intellectual property and its relation with computer software in higher institutions of learning. The book therefore investigates the impact that intellectual property has on the use of computer software in teaching in colleges and technical institutions in Sierra Leone.

It specifically focuses on the careful use of computer software tools such as power point, computer aided instructions, and simulation, among others, by teachers to make learning simple and qualitative for the improvement in students social understanding.

A further motive behind this book is the need to explore the extent of the knowledge that college lecturers and students have about intellectual property as it relates to computer software in Sierra Leone.

The social discourse obtained from field in the country gave it considerable value to readers and the depth of analysis that is invaluable in looking at some of the more difficult aspects of Intellectual Property.

The outcome of the book further reaffirms the view that computer software is a very useful instrument in aiding the process of teaching and learning in higher educational institutions that now assume a leading role in the social learning process.

Whatever the nuance may be, it is clear that sociology does have an impact on intellectual property as well does intellectual property has impact on the use of computer software. This social impact is dispensed through the learning experience of the students and the teachers instructional social dispensation. It was also revealed in encouraging manner that computer software is more protected under copyright than patent laws. Despite the fact that computer software seriously affects the teaching and social learning process of users in higher institutions in Sierra Leone, there have been a number of bottlenecks which tend to derail such experience.

As revealed in the book, the problems involve threat from power failure, and lack of easy understanding of the software, among others. At any rate, however, the book shows the sociology of intellectual property and computer software are two sides of similar social thought.

Isaac Lahai Lamin

Computer Software Researcher (SMBJ)

Freetown City Council

Sierra Leone


My unequivocal thanks to Professor Joseph Aruna Lawrence Kamara (Deputy Vice Chancellor, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone), Associate Professor Bola Owen Carew (Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor and Principal, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone), Associate Professor Kargbo(Dean, Faculty of Arts, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone ), Dr. Dante Alie Bendu (Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone), Dr. Alfred Abioseh Jarrett ( former Head Department of Sociology and Social Work) and from whom I derived my fountain of inspiration to continue to do research in my intellectual field of endeavour. The completion of this book is a testimony of the good intention of these renowned researchers as the set out to produce.

Special thanks is extended to Dr. Ibrahim B. S. Sesay (Postgraduate coordinator sociology option Department of Sociology, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone) for his professional kindness, yet he could be cruelly critical if he felt it was necessary to save me from some sociological folly to which I had become attached. From this man I learned much on sociological subject matters in Sierra Leone.

Finally, I must however recognise the encouragement and support of Mr. Munda Rogers (Public Relations Officer, University of Sierra Leone), Mr Calvin Macualey (Human Resources, University of Sierra Leone) and I also express my sincere thanks to the entire senior and administrative staff of the University of Sierra Leone.

To my wife Maimuna Bah


The use of computer software as an aid in teaching is crucial in today’s intellectual property world where technology seems to dominate every aspect of human social interaction and intellectual activities. In many parts of the world, computer has been adopted as significant tool in facilitating and fast tracking the many social activities that human beings conducted. In educational institutions people who were trained in the use of computers were employed to conduct administrative tasks involving the computation of students grades or establishing standardised database of students through the application of software that were installed into the computer hardware. The inbuilt characteristics of the computer system, such as its high speed and large storage capability, achieved through the invention of the integrated circuitry component called chips, accuracy and consistency in executing commands, and its unique ability to store and retrieve information, made its relevance highly enviable.

Considering the significance of the computer, its use was then extended to the classroom where it was intended to aid teaching process. Since the functioning of the computer is made possible through the social interaction between the physical components called hardware and the non-physical components called software, efforts were stepped up in inventing a range of software. These softwares were then divided into two main categories, viz; system software and application software. The system software is a set of programmes that is used to control the hardware and software resources. It is the main social bridge between the hardware, software and the user. The operating system is a major type of system software without which the computer system can never function. It is the nerve center of the computer. The other type of system software is the utility software which is referred to as antivirus used primarily to track down and clean virus in the computer. The application software, on the other hand, are programmes made for performing specific tasks. They include Microsoft Word used to process documents, Microsoft Excel used to produce spread sheet, Microsoft Access for the designing of data base, Microsoft Power point used to carry out presentations, and Microsoft Publisher used to carry out desktop publishing. The Personal Computer (PC), which is used by only one person at a time, is an integrated and compact system that features all of the elements and which is widely used today. The personal computer uses the processor and memory as two intertwined components, with the processor likened only to the brain of human be, it organises and carries out instructions that come from either the user or the software.

Computer software then makes teaching very illustrative and practical and enhances the increased understanding of the individual. However, the effective use of computer software, like all products resulting from human creation, is determined to a greater extent by the crucial role of intellectual property law. Although varying views exist regarding the nature and dimension of intellectual property law especially when it involves computer software, it nevertheless serves as an important kind of property with irresistible reward.

Until recently, Intellectual Property was a subject that was limited to the western countries. Initially intellectual property was mainly dominated by specialists and those who produced intellectual property rights. However, a significant shift away from this trend was made when the subject was subsequently integrated into multilateral trading system while at the same time creating impact on a number of key policy issues. Hence, this significant development made intellectual property gain wide recognition and importance in the lives of people in society. Today, it covers both OECD and developing countries. Intellectual Property includes patents, trademarks, copyright, industrial designs, utility models, geographical indications, and trade secrets. The importance of intellectual property, especially its rights and aspects such as patents and copyright, influenced most intellectuals to discuss it in gatherings or through volumes of pages. It then subsequently became an important concern for policy makers in both developed and developing countries.

Intellectual property law at the international level began in earnest around the late 19th century with the formation in the 1880s of the Paris Convention.

Subsequently, the increasing realisation of the significance of Intellectual Property in the different fields of human endeavour resulted in its expansion to cover other domains such as computer software. It became necessary to amend the laws to cover these new areas, and to make them more useful and affordable to the vast number of people in various national and transnational societies. The use of computer software in aiding teaching then became a necessity although in Sierra Leone this is limited mostly to universities and few tertiary institutions. Presumably, Intellectual Property should form a protective framework of software that is used in the teaching field. It is for this reason that developing countries, under the Trade Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights(TRIPS), are required to protect software under copyright law and semiconductor designs under the sui generis system in accordance with articles 35-37.

The field of computer software is obviously elastic and prolific. However, on almost a weekly basis, new technologies are being created that provide potentially transformative and more inclusive ways to communicate, to teach and to learn. However, these possibilities are permitted more essentially within the framework of intellectual property. And fortunately, such possibilities have been granted under the Trade Related Aspect of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement. It opens a new window of opportunity for adopting computer software in the service of humanity with specific significance generated through a synergy with Intellectual Property protocols. This marriage is made possible through the official recognition of Intellectual Property law as a major outlet for ensuring that computer software is not only used to teach but also makes it possible for its secured guarantee and protection from undue alteration by unauthorised experts.

From this direction, it is observed that the salient concern about the protection of computer software prompt the issue of code ownership and the software that enhances the computer’s functionality serves as a focal point of social inquiry.

Computer software is a set of rules and instructions that enhance the functionality of the computer’s operating system. It is the actual instructions that the user gives the computer which in turn gives out the required result. This basic understanding of computer software underscores its significance in providing leverage for man’s utility. Hence, computer software is seen as a necessary interface between the teacher and the student in the social learning environment. With the use of computer software, the student’s creative and innovative intuition is clearly enhanced through his or her detachment from the traditional method of instructional abstraction. He or she indulges in the pleasure of visual and artistic experience, controlling his own learning process with the use of basic hardware tools such as the mouse and keyboard. In between this possibility, intellectual property law offers adequate guarantee for the use of variety of softwares that are legally protected.

Hence, computer software and Intellectual Property are important in ensuring that human activities and development are systematically realised especially in developing countries. Unfortunately though, while Intellectual Property has taken root in some countries in Africa, the situation of Sierra Leone is quite different. The first attempt to exploit the use of intellectual property law in Sierra Leone was the enactment of the Copyright Law at the period of independence which became a significant part of the 1961 constitution. Since then however, the copyright law which was supposed to guarantee the rights of inventors and creators against piracy, was not taken seriously. It only remained on paper, and could not benefit from the possibility of effective implementation and popularisation. The grand effect was that most creative works of individuals were not protected against undue exploitation by non owners, a situation that continued for about fifty years, from 1961-2011. Throughout those periods, individuals almost lost ownership of their creative materials or products, and for most of the time they suffered from severe cutbacks in terms of the financial reward that they should supposedly realise. As a result of the remotely backward state of the country at the time, and the fact that Sierra Leoneans demonstrated high sense of inward disposition and conceit, caring little about development in the external world, great and notable local artists were more interested in the pleasure that they derived from their arts than financial reward. Their creative ideas were primordially tuned to the sacred traditions and culture which conspicuously held them to ransom. This status quo squeezed them of the essence of seeking any legal means or framework, such as those provided by intellectual property law, which will increase their chance of being maximally rewarded with financial fortune.

With the glorification of black market system, a seemingly negative commercial outlet shook the national economy especially in the 70s and 80s, local creators of ideas and inventions were at the center of those who suffered most. In those periods too, the act of piracy was so glaringly conducted that it almost became institutionalised, resonating with the prevailing hiking corruption rate that wrecked unchecked havoc on the state. The situation became more serious and utterly critical when the music industry grew and was popularized in the early 2000 through the efforts of notable Sierra Leoneans like Jimmy B and Steady Bongo. More and more local musicians emerged with a number of local albums appearing in the market. But the musicians could not realise the financial reward from the sale of their albums. Unlike in the distant past when musicians considered their art as end in itself, this crop of musicians was highly critical and sensitive to the emerging economic trend dictating the existence of the common man. And haven experienced their brothers in the Diaspora making great fortunes from their albums; they wasted no time in expressing a fulmination for a legal means to protect their interest in the music world.

The reason for this was high levels of piracy which still prevailed in the face of the outdated national laws. This situation heightened by the unprecedented pressure from the public especially the music industry and writers forced Parliament to get down to business. They closely examined the law and made amendments. Hence, by the end of 2011, the Copyright Act was passed in Parliament to provide for the protection of copyright in Sierra Leone and for other related matters. Thereafter, it was then officially and legally proved that the local music industry and writers are now protected against undue pirating of their materials with high economic reward. It also created a formal platform for addressing disputes relating to copyright violations in a range of activities that were hitherto vulnerable to pirates.

Significantly, the Copyright Act covers computer software especially with regards its unauthorised use irrespective of the fact that the technology came into Sierra Leone quite recently, and very little effort is made to exploit its use in teaching.

Intellectual Property Law as it relates to computer software, is therefore a very young and almost virgin tool in Sierra Leone. Most users especially within the educational institutions have little knowledge of the relevance of intellectual property law and its crucial role in protecting computer software.

Facing modernity

Since the attainment of independence, the Copyright Act was recognised and enshrined in the 1961 constitution. But from that period onwards, little or no attempt was made to ensure that it is fully implemented. This position was obviously precipitated by the fact that Intellectual Property as a separate field of discipline was not fully recognised by those who were in the academic and leadership circles. Most users especially within the educational institutions do not know much about intellectual property which may be attributed to the late appearance and use of computer software in Sierra Leone. Ironically though, and as evident in the state constitution, intellectual property was recognised as early as the period of the attainment of independence, way before the experience of the use of computers in the service of man; but today the use of computer seems to be more popularised than the knowledge of intellectual property law. This disparity has had a downward effect that undercuts the very use of computers in the world of academia.

The situation is made worse by the dearth of empirical data addressing intellectual property and the teaching of students through computer software. Generally, this social direction pays very little attention to the impact that Intellectual Property has on the use of computer software. Intellectual Property and its comparative trend with that of information technology considered graphics under the terminology of educational technology and how it can be used in teaching process to facilitate learning in Sierra Leone generally. This social position recognises the crucial role of intellectual property law in determining the significance of graphics software especially for instructional purposes. Information technology also utilises qualitative strategy as a basis of social analysis by using a sociological imagination.

The key discourse underlying Intellectual Property and the use of computer software created the level of Intellectual Property awareness among the lecturers and students at University and technical institutions in Sierra Leone. The point is, how often computer software or computer aided programme is used as a tool of teaching by lecturers? What are the implications of using computer software that is protected by intellectual property law? How effective is computer software in teaching in Sierra Leone?


Excerpt out of 31 pages


Sociology of Intellectual Property in Sierra Leone
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ISBN (Book)
sociology, intellectual, property, sierra, leone
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Mohamed Bangura (Author), 2018, Sociology of Intellectual Property in Sierra Leone, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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