Copyright should not infringe on cultural rights

“Creativity is not a privilege of an elite segment of society or professional artists, but a universal right,” said Farida Shaheed. “Copyright law and policy must be designed with sensitivity to populations that have special needs or may be overlooked by the market.”

Shaheed is the UN Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights. She made her comments during her presentation to the Human Rights Council during its 28th session in Geneva. Shaheed is concerned about the tendency of copyright protections to be strengthened with little consideration to human rights issues.

Looking at copyright through a human rights lens is crucial, Shaheed said. The rights of people to participate in culture and benefit from science, as well as for authors to have protection for their work, must be balanced against the economic and trade pressures inherent in copyright laws.

Important themes can be lost if copyright is treated mainly in terms of trade, she said. These themes include public interest, social function and the human dimension of intellectual property or even the consideration of the impact of copyright law on marginalised or vulnerable groups.

Shaheed made a number of recommendations on how to better approach copyright law. These include the development of mechanisms to protect the moral and material interests of creators, including protection for artists from exploitation in the context of copyright licensing and royalty collection. They also include expanding copyright exceptions and limitations to empower new creativity, enhance rewards to authors, increase educational opportunities, preserve space for non-commercial culture and promote inclusion and access to cultural works. She also proposed promoting cultural and scientific participation by encouraging the use of open licences so that everyone can access, share and recombine cultural works.

1 April 2015

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