jaromil on Mon, 27 Sep 2010 04:59:02 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> WIPO General Assembly: "I just called to say I want to read"

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FYI, from the Free Culture Forum discussion list

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"I just called to say I want to read"

   David Hammerstein, TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue

Running away from Stevie Wonder in Geneva

   Stevie Wonder spoke and sang before the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO) General Assembly this week in Geneva in favour of
ending the "book famine" for the visually impaired.  He passionately
challenged the international community to take action to guarantee
right to read for millions of print disabled around the world.  Many
of us were moved by his words and music but others remained
indifferent, especially some European countries like France.  In fact,
when Spain and other EU members proposed to issue a statement saying
that the EU "accepts the challenge posed by Stevie Wonder" to increase
the access to reading material for blind persons, the French
representatives flatly refused to accept any mention of Stevie Wonder
due to their copyright fundamentalism.

   For Sarkozy´s France it seems that no flexibility or exceptions are
possible. In their all out war in defense of copyright "no prisoners
will be taken".  France and other countries like Germany insisted that
there shouldn´t be any shadow of doubt concerning the total rejection
by the European Union of the World Blind Union´s proposal for a Treaty
for the Visually Impaired and Print Disabled that has been sponsored
by Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Mexico. It is quite surprising that
countries like France that have clear legal exceptions to copyright
for the visaully impaired inside their countries do not wish to extend
this norm to the rest of the world so that formatted works could flow
to the millions print-disabled of the South.

    At the same time EU countries and the US were dragging their feet
on confronting the "Book Famine" of the print-disabled in Geneva,
their chief negotiators were hard at work in secret talks "16 hours a
day" in Tokyo, hammering out the last details of the ACTA agreement
that proposes very strict and repressive enforcement measures of
copyright and patents. In contrast, It seems that when it comes to
helping one of the most disadvantaged groups in the world, the
visually impaired, there is no sense of urgency and no need to take
legally binding measures.  On IP issues the EU and the US practice a
"carrot and stick" diplomacy with lots of big sticks "to fight piracy"
and very few small carrots for the access to culture, education and
technology transfer.  In our view they are eroding the credibility of
international IP governance by exclusively focussing on protecting the
accumulated rights and vested interests of a few Northern business
models while giving a cold shoulder to new innovative industries,
consumers, internet users and citizens of the global South.

 Instead of the legally binding treaty brilliantly and passionately
defended by Latin American diplomats, the EU prefers voluntary
"stakeholder" agreements that depend on the "good will" and "self-
regulation" of publishers and rights-holders in order solve the
copyright barriers suffered by the visually impaired. (In contrast,
this week the EU and the US supported legal treaties at WIPO for
broadcasters and audio-visual performers).  Both the EU and the US
feel it would be "a dangerous precedent" to open the gate to legal
limitations and exceptions to copyright, even if it is for blind
persons´ non-profit organizations. They are sure that if this proposal
goes forward, other legal exceptions will be proposed by Africa for
libraries, archives and textbooks in what they call "the slippery
slope" toward the weakening of international copyright law. On the
contrary,  supporters of flexibilities of copyright believe that fair
exceptions could improve the general credibility and social acceptance
of copyright governance.

  "I just called to say I want to read" might be the title of Stevie
Wonder´s next song. Wonder told WIPO that if they do not act he would
be forced to write a song "about what they didn´t do".

 The fight for the "right to read" is gaining momentum and getting
stronger around the world.  By the time the issue is considered at
WIPO in November at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related
Rights (SCCR) there are some signs that real progress will be made to
set a road-map for a fairer copyright system that places the plight of
millions of people before the supposed business interests of a few. We
just all need to push a little harder.

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