Free content during pandemic threatems cultural industries: UN
Books, films, concerts: free content has been spreading almost as fast as the coronavirus, making life easier for those sheltering from the pandemic, but also threatening already fragile cultural industries, the UN warned Tuesday. As countries around the world have imposed strict physical distancing measures to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus — cancelling events, banning public gatherings, and asking billions of people to stay home — access to free cultural content online has become omnipresent.
While some content creators have themselves opted to make their artistic products available, Francis Gurry, the head of the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization, voiced concern that numerous requests are coming in for IP “exceptions... for the cultural sector to disregard copyright”. WIPO’s IP rules do permit exceptions to cultural copyright to facilitate access to books, publications and other creative content in certain specific circumstance and under certain conditions. But in an interview with AFP, Gurry questioned whether it was justified to use the ongoing pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 people worldwide, as an excuse to make entire museum exhibits, operas, ballets, concerts and publications available to the public at no cost.
“We should be much more measured,” he said, pointing out that such moves were dramatically slashing the income of many professionals in an already fragile sector. “To cast off a copyright, you have to prove that there is a special need,” he said. “I do not really see evidence of a problem accessing content” in the current situation, he said, pointing out that it was still possible to purchase cultural goods online, like books and music. At the same time, he said, content creators have been hard-hit by the crisis. Many in the field had completely lost their revenue streams, Gurry warned, pointing for instance to film production, which has all but ground to a halt, where hundreds of people are usually involved in making a single movie. “It is hard to quantify the consequences as this is happening, but the sector is in deep distress,” he said.—AFP