UN Cultural Rights Rapporteur Delivers Report Condemning Prevailing Copyright Laws

from the in-service-to-industries-and-nations,-rather-than-creators dept

The UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, has just delivered a less-than-complimentary report on copyright to the UN's Human Rights Council. Shaheed's report actually examines where copyright meshes with arts and science -- the two areas it's supposed to support -- and finds it runs contrary to the rosy image of incentivized creation perpetuated by the MPAAs and RIAAs of the world.

Shaheed said a “widely shared concern stems from the tendency for copyright protection to be strengthened with little consideration to human rights issues.” This is illustrated by trade negotiations conducted in secrecy, and with the participation of corporate entities, she said.

She stressed the fact that one of the key points of her report is that intellectual property rights are not human rights. “This equation is false and misleading,” she said.
The last statement fires shots over the bows of "moral rights" purveyors, as well as those who view infringement as a moral issue, rather than just a legal one.

Shaheed also points out that the protections being installed around the world at the behest of incumbent industries are not necessarily reflective of creators' desires.
The right to protection of authorship remains with the human author(s) whose creative vision gave expression to the work, even when the copyright interest has been sold to a corporate publisher or distributor. We should always keep in mind that copyright regimes may under-protect authors because producers/publishers/distributors and other “subsequent right-holders” typically exercise more influence over law-making than individual creators, and may have divergent and possibly opposing interests to those of the creators.
In addition, the intellectual property standards pushed by the United States and others treat fair use, personal use copying, educational use and other similar aspects as exceptions rather than something inherent to the permissions granted to rights holders by these laws -- a balancing factor between the copyright holders' and the publics' interests.
The main challenge, I believe, is that international copyright treaties generally treat copyright protections as mandatory, while largely treating exceptions and limitations as optional. The standard for judging whether a particular exception or limitation is permissible under international copyright law is not articulated with precision. This is why one of my recommendations is to explore the possibility of establishing a core list of minimum required exceptions and limitations incorporating those currently recognized by most States, and/or an international fair use provision.
Not that any established industry reliant on these expansive protections would ever agree to such a thing. It took a whole lot of public shaming before industry heads agreed to copyright exceptions for the blind. Anything above this level of begrudging "charity" has been forced down the throats of these industries by various governments.

Shaheed suggests one solution to the imbalance of power in the copyright system: a division of rights between creators and their "representative" rights holders.
Creators often need corporate rights holders: to develop innovative ways of delivering cultural works to the public, provide capital to finance high-budget cultural productions, and free artists from many of the burdens of commercializing their work. The human right to protection of authorship requires that copyright policies be carefully designed to ensure that authors (and not only copyright holders) benefit materially. An appropriate balance is crucial, recognizing that creators are both supported and constrained by copyright rules.
She also points out that it's not only incumbent industries standing in the way of better international copyright laws, but also "incumbent" countries.
Several countries, such as Indonesia and Brazil, commented on the issue of the protection of local and indigenous communities, which is mentioned in the report, for which they said “intellectual property historically failed” to take into account the issues of indigenous peoples.

Some developing countries said the current copyright system hinders the right to development by a violation of the right to education, health and progress and many other rights related to affording a basic decent life to millions in developing countries, according to UN sources.
The reaction of the incumbents?
The US said it disagrees with the report, in particular the recommendation related to copyright norm-setting activities at experts’ discussion in other international fora. They also disagreed on the suggestion that individual creators and corporations or businesses should merit different protections.

Portugal said the current copyright framework constitutes an important tool for human development, especially for cultural and scientific advancement.
France wondered why more established countries weren't considered in the report, arguing that cutting out the major players who wield an inordinate amount of power somehow resulted in an "unbalanced outcome."

The UN will take this report under consideration, along with a second report due later this year from Shaheed dealing with the patent system. Unfortunately, this somewhat scathing look at the present copyright system will do little to derail secretive international trade agreements that foist intellectual property "protections" foisted on smaller, less powerful countries.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2015 @ 10:51am

    Morality

    Infringement is not a moral issue, but punishing people for building upon existing culture certainly is. Copyright, unless significantly limited in scope and duration, is an immoral principle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), 13 Mar 2015 @ 10:59am

    "intellectual property rights are not human rights."

    Hooray! Someone gets it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 13 Mar 2015 @ 11:02am

    We should always keep in mind that copyright regimes may under-protect authors because producers/publishers/distributors and other “subsequent right-holders” typically exercise more influence over law-making than individual creators, and may have divergent and possibly opposing interests to those of the creators.

    Yes, and it's about time that people start realizing that.

    Go back and look at the original copyright law--Britain's "Statute of Anne"--and you will see that it was written with one explicit, very specific purpose in mind: to rein in the abuse of publishers, acting to the detriment of authors.

    Gutenberg's printing press was developed approximately in 1450, and by 1709, publishing interests had made such an abusive, exploitative mess of it that it was necessary to create an entirely new legal framework--copyright law--to deal with it. That's approximately 260 years.

    260 years later, we reach the 1970s, which is when copyright law really began to be perverted into the horrendous, inside-out mess we see today, where instead of preventing publishers from exploiting people, it enables them to do so and protects them in their evil. So it seems to me we're about 45 years overdue for another entirely new legal framework.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2015 @ 11:33am

      Re:

      -and you will see that it was written with one explicit, very specific purpose in mind: to rein in the abuse of publishers, acting to the detriment of authors.

      Go and check out the actual history. Authors lacked copyright for the first 250 odd years of printing in Europe, but they did have the manuscripts that publishers desired, and were willing to buy. The publishers obtained copyright, as authority to print, from the civil powers, and this also had the benefit of regulating who could print what title. After the law granting this copyright was abolished, the publishers spent about 10 years lobbying for a copyright system, putting forward the image of starving publishers. This idea went down about as well as a lead balloon, so the publishers changed tactics. They invented the Idea of copyright as a transferable right granted to an author, and which they author could transfer to his publisher, which sort of restored the the control over printing that they had under the censorship version of copyright. The flaw in the new form of copyright is the limited term, but the publishers are working on eliminating this flaw.
      Do not fall for political spin that is used to promote copyright, it was, and always has been a means of regulating and benefiting publishers. Like anybody working in a political arena, the publishers make claims that justify their desires, and have learnt from the effort to get the statute of Anne passed, pushing their self interests directly does not work, but by projecting their desire as being to the benefit if artists usually works. Hint, the trope of starving artists is kept alive by the actions of publishers, who keep almost all of the profits mad from creative works.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2015 @ 11:50am

      Re:

      "Go back and look at the original copyright law--Britain's "Statute of Anne"--and you will see that it was written with one explicit, very specific purpose in mind: to rein in the abuse of publishers, acting to the detriment of authors."

      Well, that and censorship.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2015 @ 11:34am

    > She stressed the fact that one of the key points of her report is that intellectual property rights are not human rights. “This equation is false and misleading,” she said.

    It's worse than that. Copyright is NOT a "property right", despite the misleading "intellectual property". You can never truly have "intellectual property", because EVERY SINGLE THING humans are creating or have created has been built on PRIOR KNOWLEDGE, as in "intellectual property" from OTHERS. So unless we're admitting all copyright holders are THIEVES, then "intellectual property" doesn't exist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 3:24pm

      Re:

      I think it can be stated that ALL copyright holders whoare not, in fact, the creator of the work, are, in fact, thieves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2015 @ 11:34am

    There is a right for authors and artists to be paid for their work in the udhr. Copyright law as it stands is far beyond the garantees of the udhr.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2015 @ 12:25pm

      Re:

      The UDHR just only requires "moral rights"; attribution and not do thing to damage the integrity of the work such as making Dora the Explorer an anti-jew sentimentalist and a whore and censorship. While most countries have don this as a part of copyright there is not requirement to do so and in fact the UDHR never even mentions copyright.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    limbodog (profile), 13 Mar 2015 @ 1:31pm

    Spot on

    Pity our own government opposes it and will never go along with that sort of thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2015 @ 2:19pm

    Too bad they won't do anything about it and are more keen on pushing Agenda 21.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2015 @ 3:29pm

    what a shame that neither the UN or her in particular have any clout! there are far too many corrupt courts and governments to take a blind bit of notice of what has been reported, just as there is no notice taken of anything other than what the entertainment industries put out! then add in how all these governments involved in doing everything they possibly can for the entertainment industries in the web site blocking, the criminalising of copying, the imprisoning of copiers, the removal of free speech and privacy and human rights, are the exact same governments who have condemned and still are condemning China and Russia as well as others, for doing those very things. if ever there was a turn around, this is it! i am truly hoping i am still around when the truth is actually exposed, the reasons these changes happened and how much each of these two faced fuckers received!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 8:36am

    Corporate Person-hood Denier?

    She stressed the fact that one of the key points of her report is that intellectual property rights are not human rights. “This equation is false and misleading,” she said.

    I bet she's one of those "corporate person-hood deniers" too who try to claim that corporations don't have human rights either. Where do these nut-jobs all come from, anyways?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 9:12am

    Abolish Copyright

    Copyright is immoral. Abolish it. Period.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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