Cultural notion of authorship and ownership in Egypt

user Yulia V. Akinfieva, M.B.A,LL.M. calender 21 Mar 2016 views 2394 Views

  Notion of authorship and ownership is one of the cultural constructs that differ across cultures and is highly influenced by social, religious, economic and political factors.Whereas in some countries, the concept of intellectual property is understood and practiced, granting all

the rights to the ‘owner’ of words and ideas; yet, in other parts of


world, ideas, thoughts and knowledge are considered “a part of a collective foundation of knowledge available to all” . Originally I am Russian; however, I’ve spent most of my life in Egypt. Therefore, I will take the topic from the Egyptian perspective since its culture and laws are more familiar to me than those of Russia.

Cultural attitudes toward and presumptions about notion of authorship and ownership in Egypt

 Egypt has begun applying intellectual property laws as early as 19th century, and was a pioneer country with this regard in the Middle East. Egyptian law in its foundation relies on Napoleon Code, Roman law, and Shiri’a law (Islamic law); modern Egyptian laws are based “on civil law principles and are known to have a French flavor” . And, although principles of intellectual property are not new concepts, history stems from the old civilization and the times of Caliphate, where Caliphs would make copies of books after paying a certain fee to the author, Egyptian society is still struggling with the application . The perception and mindset are slow to change especially in the society that is highly influenced by religion. Islam, which governs ways of life and ways of thinking of many
Egyptians, plays a significant role in shaping the perception and attitude. Islamic scholars, whose opinions are highly regarded, are split into two camps: some claiming that there is nothing wrong in abiding by the intellectual property rights and others, opposing the notion by arguing that “the concept of ownership in Shari’a is confined to tangible objects only” and that ““knowledge” in Islam is not the property of an individual, nor can an individual prevent others from acquiring it, whereas the concept of ‘intellectual property’ leads to the monopoly of some individuals’ knowledge, which can never be accepted by Islam” . However, although religion plays a significant role in concept formation, it is not the sole defining factor since Coptic Christians of Egypt, are also confined within the same mentality of “it’s normal to use other people’s work without proper acknowledgment”. Personally, I heard people say: ‘well, this does not belong to him (the author), since these  ideas are based on general knowledge, so why don’t I use it’, ‘it’s OK to copy since I am too poor to buy the original’, ‘what’s so special about this book, trademark, logo, I can produce hundreds like these, so I can use it’. These are examples of the way people approach the matter.

Effect of globalization and recent trends on the cultural attitudes

  Recently, however, with the globalization and changing social, economic, political environments as well as changing legislation, the mentality and attitude towards intellectual property in Egypt have been changing to the better, and moving in the direction of the West, where the approach to intellectual property rests on the assumption that “the human mind is the source of all knowledge and wisdom, not God”, and thus, has the right to own his ideas, words, and creations[1]. People became more conscious about the matter and cautious when it comes to IPR related matters at their workplace, for example.

Applicability of academic integrity in the organizational context

  Academic integrity in my opinion is the basis for work. In organizations of different scales, work and contribution of others must be appreciated and acknowledged in all aspects be it a creative idea proposed during a meeting, a feasibility study, client report or a case study. Every employee must receive proper credit and reference for his work and contribution. Thus, normal working documents developed on Microsoft Word, normally have author, date edited/reviewed, and other reference information. Intranet and other internal systems have proper meta tags and description fields for credentials and reference. However, in some small family businesses in Egypt the concept is still not applicable. Employees think in collective terms, i.e. all information and ideas are the property of the company and it does not matter who was the employee who came up with a certain idea.

References : [1] Vance, Noelle, “Cross-cultural Perspectives on Source Referencing and Plagiarism” (2009) Research Starters Education (Online Edition) 

[1] Raslan, Heba A., “Shari’a and the Protection of Intellectual Property – the Example of Egypt” (2006) Vol. 47, Issue 4, pp. 497-560

[3] Ibid 2

[4] Ibid 2

[5] Ibid 1