Sunday, October 01, 2006

Who speaks for which culture?

I don't even know what it would mean for the USA to have someone like this in government. (cross posted at the riddim method

Gilberto Gil, Brazilian Minister of Culture:
"It is clear to us that development will only be ensured if there is a balance between intellectual property rights and obligations and the public interest, as had been highlighted by the Ambassador of Argentina, on behalf of the Group of Friends of Development. If such balance is lost we will violate the nature of knowledge itself: we should never forget Thomas Jefferson's words, according to which there would not be any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property than ideas, whose sharing does not necessarily harm anyone..."

It's really exciting that musicians, and musicians with strong community and cultural connections at that, are participating at high levels of government somewhere, and are being represented -- and are representing the concerns of the less-powerful (who coinsidentally often have a different relation to property rights, being so often on the wrong side of them).

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), for those who don't know, is an international body that was initially formed by businesses concerned with protecting their IP worldwide. Its explicit mission was to strengthen IP laws so that they could better profit from them. Because of it claim to expertise, it became an advisor to the UN on issues of IP, despite the fact that it's not only businesses that have an interest in Intellectual Property, and it's not clear that strong IP rights help everyone equally, or don't hurt some that the UN mandate may be to help. In recent years there has been pushback, especially from developing nations, led especially by Brazil and Argentine, who have proposed a Development Agenda for WIPO that requires a lot of other considerations that IP law should take care of. Especially, what "the public interest" means in relation to affixing property rules to non-physical things.

This is hugely important for access to knowledge of all kinds, but the idea of cultural survival and cultural flourishing also should raise questions for everyone - does culture grow and spread because (or despite the fact that) artists have the option to collect royalties on their work when their contracts so allow it? what is necessary for a musical culture to be healthy - especially, in this case, what has been the relation to law and IP law in particular, that allows culture to flourish?

Maybe we need more free beer?

1 comment:

  1. i didn't know until i read this that gilberto gil was the minister of culture in brazil! thank god for musicians who "get it" and also have actual sway in society.