Copyright and cultural diversity

By EDRi · June 16, 2010

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Deutsch: [Urheberrecht und kulturelle Vielfalt |]

The conclusions of a study commissioned by the Culture and Education
Committee (CULT), summarising the state of implementation of the UNESCO
Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural
Expressions (ratified by the European Community in 2007) has been publicly

The study focused on fields where the EU would be expected to provide
leadership. A good deal of attention was paid to the regulatory implications
of digital media and the research team adopted an emphatically critical
approach to the idea of enhancing copyright.

The head of the study, Christophe Germann said that while some copyright was
necessary, the research team had come to the conclusion that too much
copyright “is detrimental to diversity of cultural expression” and that
policy-makers in the EU are generally overly exposed to lobbyists that
“repeat the prevailing dogma about the need for better copyright law”.
According to the assessment, policy-makers who only listen to the loudest
and strongest voice fail to implement the parts of the Convention they
consider most valuable; diversity of cultural expression is particularly
threatened by Intellectual Property Rights “in markets that are dominated by
big corporations exercising collective power as oligopolies”.

The study considered selective state aid mechanisms in the audiovisual
field to be risky insofar as they represent an incentive to clientelism and
a bad model for authoritarian regimes with regard to the possibility of
covert censorship and inhibiting cultural entrepreneurship.

The study was also highly critical of the fact that, so far, there had not
been any formal discussions between the EU and WTO on questions of trade and
culture, and pointed out that during recent international trade negotiations
the issue of “cultural exceptions” was not even raised by the EU. Dr.
Germann noted that culture-related aspects of intellectual property rights
might have translated into increasingly well-articulated norms of law. The
need to distinguish between patents and public health was also mentioned,
and the EU was admonished for negotiating TRIPS-plus, which would “export
regulations to jurisdictions that don’t have proper competition law to
balance protection with IPR”.

Mira Burri (World Trade Institute) presented an assessment of implementation
of the Convention in EU internal policies, and reminded the Commission that
mainstreaming a culture obligation into all relevant policy decisions is one
of the obligations under the Convention. Ms. Burri said the Commission
should be particularly cautious when pushing for extending copyrights “which
could also reduce creativity” and “have an important impact on freedom” –
especially with respect to the implementation of rules such as 3-strikes and
the enforcement of copyright through intermediaries. Overall, she declared,
the interests and rights of users are not duly protected in negotiations.

Implementing the UNESCO Convention of 2005 in the European Union

Implementing the UNESCO Convention in EU’s Internal Policies (14.05.2010)

The Implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural
Expressions in the EU’s External Policies (14.05.2010)

A summary of the UNESCO Study

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)